Council to appoint a person to fill his remaining term

Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning City Council discussed a preliminary plan that could bring a new skate park, pickle ball and tennis courts, as well as playground equipment to Amundson Park and the Henning Festival grounds.

By Chad Koenen


The Henning City Council accepted the resignation of city councilman Wes Johnson on Monday, March 6. 

“I would like to thank the residents for allowing me to serve this great town we call home. I feel the last few years I was instrumental in exposing the problems of our city that have been ignored for decades,” wrote Johnson in his resignation letter. “I believe our new employees will move the city in a  positive direction. I’m 80-years-old and may not have many healthy years left, so effective immediately, I will be resigning from the city council.”

In order to fill the open position the city council can either appoint a person to fill Johnson’s remaining term, which is up for election next year, or hold a special election. 

Henning City Councilman Scott Hart said he would be in favor of seeing who finished in third place during the most recent November election to fill the now vacant seat. He said Henning residents made their voices heard in November about who they want to represent their community and the person who finished in third place received support from the community. 

“My feeling would be to go back to our election results and look at the next candidate up. That’s the people’s choice. That’s my feeling,” he said. “People voted. We know some order of who was voted for, whether they are experienced or not experienced. That’s how I look at it.”

While Hart said he was in favor of looking back at the November election results to see if one of those candidates may still be interested in being on the city council, the two new members of the city council and the new mayor all seemed to favor appointing someone with past experience, even if they did not seek election in November. 

“I think we could benefit from some past experiences. We are going through a lot stuff (and) 3/5 of us are new up here,” said councilman Jesse Hermanson. 

Henning councilwoman Mallory Loock agreed with Hermanson that having experience would be beneficial to the city council.

“I agree with that too…having more experience would be more beneficial,” said Loock.

Henning Mayor Robert Johnson also seemed to favor adding someone with experience on the city council.

“It’s easier to have an experienced guy with you when you are trying to deal with this, because they know what they can and cannot do or say,” he said. “I am in favor of putting on some experience.”

In November, Hermanson with 188 votes and Loock with 181 votes were elected to the city council for the first time, and Johnson was elected as mayor for his first term. Caleb Horn received 154 votes to finish in third place for a spot on the city council. 

Johnson said he spoke with former city councilman Jim Haberer prior to the meeting who was interested in returning to the council to fill the open position left by Wes Johnson. Haberer did not seek re-election in November. Johnson said he did not want to wait to appoint someone to fill the open seat and he felt Haberer would provide some experience to the new city council. 

While Johnson said he wanted to appoint someone immediately, Hart wanted to wait for a month to reach out to the people who sought election to the city council in November, as well as to see if other people in the community would be interested in serving on the city council as well. 

“I don’t think we need to hurry right now and do it. That is too fast,” he said about appointing someone last week. 

The city council said it will wait until its April 3 city council meeting and review potential candidates to fill the void left by Wes Johnson.

In other news

• Approved developing a street maintenance plan to look at future street projects, as well as maintenance plans for city streets. The cost for the plan was estimated to be between $5,000-6,900. The council also approved a plan by Apex Engineering to test the city’s soil to see if rapid soil infiltration could eventually replace the city’s irrigation system. Bob Schliemann, of Apex Engineering, said the city’s irrigators are beginning to show their age and will need to be replaced in the near future. If the city’s soil is sandy enough, it could replace the irrigation system with rapid soil infiltration. 

• Discussed preliminary plans that could develop a portion of the Henning Festival grounds and Amundson Park with a new skate park, pickle ball and tennis courts, basketball courts and a new walking trail from Milne Ave. through the back of the softball fields and out to Highway 108. The plan would also include placing playground equipment at Amundson Park and adding parking slots along Jensen St. The plan was just preliminary and provided an overview of what could take place at the city owned parks. 

• Approved no longer streaming city meetings over Zoom. Johnson said the city has received complaints about the poor quality of audio of the meetings in the past.

• Discussed a recommendation by the fire marshal to no longer allow open flames from things like incense, space heaters and other objects at the city-owned Willow Creek, as well as Countryview.

• Approved seeking a grant from West Central EMS Corporation to provide matching funding for up to $500 to pay for things like pagers and radios. Henning Ambulance co-director Chelsea Waskosky said each pager costs approximately $500 apiece. 

• Heard from Waskosky about a plan to reimburse ambulance and healthcare facilities a flat rate for ALS intercepts from the Henning Ambulance Service, as oppose to splitting the payment with the intercepts. She said the benefit would essentially be a wash for the city money-wise, but could generate additional funding on some calls, while also making the billing a bit easier for city staff. She will bring back a proposal to the city council at a later time.

• Heard from Jessica Strege concerning the proposed skate park in Henning. The skate park committee members requested permission to place the skate park at the festival grounds and also sought permission to seek grants on the city’s behalf. Due to the timing and deadlines of some of the grants, Strege requested to have permission to seek out grants prior to coming to the city council for permission to do so each time. After a brief discussion, the council said the skate park committee should keep the parks committee apprised of the grants they are seeking and will keep the council updated on grant applications.

• Approved a recommendation from the Willow Creek Commission to increase the starting pay for an RN position at Willow Creek to $30 per hour, as opposed to $25 per hour. It was reported that potential RN employees were not interested in the $25 per hour wage. 

• Approved hiring Precision Landscaping to shovel the sidewalk at Willow Creek for the remainder of the winter. The cost will be $101 per visit. Much of the question on Monday night revolved around sanding or salting the sidewalks, which according to the originally proposal from Precision Landscaping, the city did not request the company to complete.