Photo by Chad Koenen
The Henning City Council tabled a request to sell a triangle piece of city-owned land near the former nursing home to construct a new four-plex apartment unit. The city council said more information about the potential sale of the property was needed.

By Chad Koenen


Summer road construction is beginning to wrap up in Henning, and not a moment too soon for a number of residents in the community,

During its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday night, which was held a day later than usual due to the Labor Day holiday, the Henning City Council heard from Bob Schliemann, of Apex Engineering, about several of the road projects in town. 

Photo by Chad Koenen
Another busy season of road construction continues in Henning this summer. Next year Highway 108 will be reconstructed as part of an expansive project.

Schliemann said the city still has not received a permit from the railroad company to directional drill under the railroad tracks on Inman St. to replace its aging water and sewer lines. He said the pipes date back to 1938 and are in need of being replaced, but until the city receives word back from the railroad that portion of the project will need to be in a waiting pattern. 

The hope is to have the Inman St. project south of Douglas Ave. substantially completed by October 1, pending the railroad approval.

The city council also discussed an email the city recently received from MnDOT regarding the 2024 Highway 108 project. The email stated the city would need to fund a portion of the project up-front, even before it receives its PFA funding and construction begins. This was a change from previous interactions with representatives from MnDOT and how projects were funded in the past through MnDOT.

Henning Mayor Robert Johnson said he is only aware of one other community in the entire state that was required to pay for a portion of the project before receiving its financing. 

Meanwhile, Schliemann said he has never seen such a request before, but added that he had not been involved in a MnDOT project like the Highway 108 project for quite some time. 

Bleacher fund

The Henning City Council will close its bleacher fund with the City of Ottertail. The two communities rented out some portable bleachers over the years, which are beginning to show wear and tear to the point that both communities have opted against renting out the pair of bleachers on a regular basis. Each community will keep one of the two sets of bleachers as part of the agreement.

The catch in ending the relationship is that a bleacher account in the City of Henning is missing approximately $20,000. 

According to city clerk Jenna Kovarik, the bleacher account should have approximately $24,000 in it, which would then be split with the City of Ottertail, but approximately just $4,100 remains in the account. She said it appears that money was transferred out of the bleacher fund in 2020, prior to her employment with the city, but the transfer was never coded within the city’s Banyon financial software. 

After combing through the city’s financials with utility supervisor Ted Strand and speaking with the city’s auditor, the reason for the transfer or where it was sent to has not been located. Strand said no check was ever written and no minutes were located where the city council authorized transferring money out of the bleacher account. Since no check was written, Strand said it is possible the money was transferred internally to another account, but since the transfer was not coded within the system, there is no way to tell where it was transferred to or the reason.

Kovarik said the city’s auditor said unless the Banyon software was backed up, which was reportedly not done at that time, there would be no way to tell why the money was not in the city’s bleacher account. 

By consensus of the city council, the city will pay the City of Ottertail $12,000, which was half of the money that should have been in the bleacher account to close out the account with Ottertail.

In other news

• Discussed selling a triangular piece of city-owned property near the former nursing home in Henning to a developer who was interested in constructing a four-plex multi-family housing unit. The city council tabled the proposal for more information. 

• Approved an increase in the city’s contribution for the annual Henning Festival fireworks show to $2,500. The city had previously contributed $2,000 annually to the fireworks, which is also matched by the Henning Chamber of Commerce. 

• Approved a short-term loan to the Trinity Center for just under $24,000 to make the final payment to a contractor for the bell tower and twin spires restoration project, until the remaining 20 percent of an $118,000 grant is received. The city was the recipient of the grant to restore the project and the final payment of the grant will not be made until the final report is submitted to the state of Minnesota. The thought was the remaining grant money to cover all of the costs of the project will be received in 60 days.

• Approved waiving half of approximately $900 in late fees a local property owner incurred for late utility bills over the past several years. Strand said he was informed by the property owner that they contacted former city staff about correcting the discrepancy with the utility bill, but nothing was ever done to correct the utility bill. As a result, the utility bill was being estimated and not read routinely, which resulted in an approximate $10,000 utility bill. The utility bill was paid in full in just two months, but the property owner requested that a portion of the late charge be waived since they had tried to correct the utility issue with the city in the past, but nothing was ever done. 

• Heard from Johnson about a request to purchase a large lot behind the former Pride Construction and AutoFix buildings in the industrial park in Henning. There currently is no access point for the property and the city would need to extend utilities to provide services to the property. Johnson said the individual who recently purchased the former Pride building would like to purchase the remaining 22 acres of property and proposed selling it at fair market value of approximately $25,000. Johnson also said there have been discussions between the individual and Brogard Plumbing, Heating and Excavating about purchasing a portion of that land for an expansion of that business should the sale of the property go through. In the past the city had sold lots in the industrial park for just $1 provided a new building or business is constructed on the land. Johnson said the property would be used just for storage for the time being. The council tabled the issue for more information.

• Approved up to $40,000 for the utility department to purchase a 1/2 to 3/4 ton truck. The truck was already in the city budget. 

• Approved up to $4,000 for the Henning Fire Department to purchase a new aluminum trailer. The trailer was already in the fire department budget.

• Heard that new fencing for the back softball field would cost approximately $37,000. The city council has discussed replacing the fencing, which is falling down and has several holes along the fence line in recent months, but the cost for replacing the fence was substantially higher than originally anticipated. A second bid had the cost of replacing the fence at closer to $70,000. No action was taken regarding the fence at this time due to the large cost of the project.

• Approved up to $3,000 to install irrigation at Tony Kawlewski Field. The cost for installing irrigation at the baseball field was close to $6,000 and will be split with the baseball association. 

• Heard from Henning City Councilman Scott Hart that the state of Minnesota has put a moratorium on voter-approved sales taxes, which had been discussed for quite some time by the city council as a way to generate additional funding for things like parks and rec. Hart said he will be speaking with state legislators to voice his displeasure with taking away the rights of city’s and county’s to implement a tax to benefit their community. 

• Heard from George Eilertson of Northland Securities concerning a $250,000 bond the city recently approved to fund several upcoming projects in the community The bond will be for 10 years at 4.75 percent. The bond will be issued by First National Bank and can be paid off early with no penalties.

• Heard from Sara Booker about a concern regarding losses at Willow Creek. She said the assisted and independent living facility has lost a lot of money over the years, which she said has resulted in utilities and taxpayers subsidizing the facility. She said the city should look into selling the city-owned facility to someone who has expertise in the field of assisted living. 

• Heard the Henning Ambulance Service has responded to 271 calls already this year.