By Chad Koenen


The Henning City Council took a step last week to make sure its electrical needs will be met in the near future.

During its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, May 2, the Henning City Council approved entering into a distribution maintenance supplement service agreement with Missouri River Energy Services. The exact details of the service contract, as well as the cost of the service, will be worked out between Missouri River and the utility department. The two sides both said they wanted to make sure the immediate electrical needs of the city would be met for existing and future projects until additional employees can be hired in the utility department. 

Terry Wolf, of Missouri River, said the agreement is similar to a number of other communities served by the company, but will be catered to fit the needs of Henning. 

“We regularly do these to help out communities.”

Terry Wolf of Missouri River Energy Services

  As part of the agreement, Missouri River will provide assistance with the maintenance, construction and repairs of Henning’s electric distribution system, assist with the utility’s on-call rotation and distribution maintenance management services. The agreement can be put in place for as short, or as long of a time, as the city council desired. 

Henning Mayor Darren Wiese said he viewed the supplemental service agreement as a short term fix until additional staff members can be hired. He said the goal continues to be to fill the open lineman positions within the utility department, but without a qualified person on staff, the service agreement will ensure that the electrical needs continue to be serviced. 

“It’s not a long term goal, but it is the situation we are in,” he said. “We need to make sure if we have an outage we can take care of it.”

Utilities Supervisor Ted Strand said the agreement will ensure the city maintains local ownership over the electric utility, as well as provide service should the city not be able to fill its open linemen positions in the near future.

“It’s a solution to the short term. It could be made into the long term, but right now it is a solution for what we have today,” he said. 

In addition to the service contract, the city council held a work session for city employees in light of the recent exit of six full-time employees in the city office, police department and utility department. 

Henning Police Chief Mike Helle and Strand said the city council needs to work together and cautioned that in light of a staffing shortage that some things may not be done as they were in the past. Both said if the city council, community and remaining staff members work together that the city will be able to get through the staffing shortage in the short term. 

Willow Creek Executive Director Lisa Augustus said the council needs to work together to boost moral of the staff. 

“What is going to change so we do retain staff. What is the council looking at after all of these employees have left? It is not just going to be the wage that needs to change, it is the moral issues.” 

Lisa Augustus, Willow Creek Executive Director in a question to the Henning City Council

As part of the work sessions a number of residents spoke as well about the need for the community to work together and look forward to the future of Henning. 

The work session lasted for about an hour and the city council encouraged employees to come to the council with concerns or ways it can help get through the current staffing shortage. 

In other news

• Heard that work on the electric sub station is scheduled for May 21 beginning at 11 p.m. The work was scheduled for earlier this spring, but was canceled due to inclement weather. The work is expected to take up to eight hours to complete and electricity will not be available during the project.

• Approved delaying the substantial completion date for the Inman Street project from October 2022 to October 2023, due to continued supply chain issues. Bob Schlieman, of Apex Engineering, has heard concerns from contractors about being able to get products in on time to meet the time frame originally planned by the city. While the substantial completion date was delayed a year, if the contractor opts to begin the project in 2022 they will need to have the project substantially completed this year. The council also discussed the Hwy. 108 project and its attempts to keep the road as wide as possible near the elevator to help with the flow of truck traffic. The council said it is waiting for another proposal from MnDOT. 

• Approved closing the city office from May 9-13 due to staffing shortages. Wiese offered to answer the phone and helps residents who come into the office for free, but the council opted to close the office instead and will post signs on the door about who to contact in the event of an emergency. Deputy clerk Joseph Miller will be at training from May 9-13. 

• Approved increasing the starting wage range for utility workers to $20-29 per hour. 

• Approved a 4 percent increase in rent at Willow Creek effective July 1. Last year the city council approved a 2 percent rent increase at the city-owned facility.