Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Complaints against bar in Willow River


Pine County Sheriff Jeff Nelson paid the Willow River city council a visit at their regular meeting on March 2 to discuss several complaints law enforcement has received about a bar in the city staying open late past legal operating hours.

“On two occassions deputies did go there and had conversations with people there,” said Sheriff Nelson.

Reports were sent to the county attorney for possible criminal charges but according to state statute they needed to prove sale of alcohol after hours which would be difficult to prove. They therefore discussed enforcing the city’s ordinance but the agreement between the county and city to prosecute ordinances has expired.

“I did also then contact the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement and their recommendation was to go through the city as the license issuer … and bring it to you guys and see what, if anything, you would do with that,” said Sheriff Nelson.

The council agreed that a letter will be sent to the owners of the bar with a copy of the ordinance stating it would be enforced if there are any further violations.

Dave Prachar, a resident who attended the meeting, suggested that they have the city attorney write the letter but Clerk Diane Nelson stated their attorney has a conflict of interest with the matter.

The sheriff also passed along sample evacuation orders he received from the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division to use to revamp and clarify the city’s current ordinance. Mayor Brent Switzer said he’d be updating their ordinance and would bring it to the next meeting for council approval.

Sam Seibert of CybertPC presented two different bids for a security system for city hall. The system would add outdoor and indoor cameras with 30 days of video storage. The motion activated cameras are rated to -25 degrees and sustain enough heat to melt off snow and ice that may collect on them. The council agreed they would like to take the lower bid with an added camera to monitor the fire hall shed, but wanted a contract in writing before accepting it. They also asked Clerk Nelson to look into what sort of break they might receive on their insurance premium with the new system. A separate bid from an out of area contractor was also reviewed, but the council was in favor of CybertPC’s proposition.

Fire Chief Gerard Bennett announced that the 50/50 grant with the DNR finally went through and four new handheld radios with accompanying equipment were ordered. The fire department is also working with Andy Spartz from the Sandstone Fire Department on a grant with Pine County Mutual Aid Association to replace and upgrade any of their existing radios. The application should go through in late summer or fall.

Fire Chief Bennett also wanted to recognize the two members that completed the 24 hour EMT refresher course.

“There’s a lot of stuff that people don’t see; there’s a lot of time and effort put in by these people,” said Bennett. “It’s involved and I appreciate these guys doing all that.”

The council briefly discussed Willow River Days but they are still in need of a 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization to assist in order to hold the event. Clerk Nelson asked that if there are any such organizations in the area interested to contact city hall.

In other business, the council passed a motion to accept the contract with John Mikrot to repaint the water tower for a total of $48,900 to be paid over two years.

The city agreed to participate with National Night Out on August 4.

A motion was passed to increase the pay for election judges to $15/hour and $18/hour for the head election judge since the state will be reimbursing the city for all costs involved with the presidential primary election.

The council agreed to pay Kathi Bennett to clean the city hall.

The gambling license for the Willow River Fire Department’s raffle was approved.

The next regular city council meeting is scheduled for April 6 at 7 p.m.


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