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New leaders take office in Atwater city government

ATWATER -- The gavel was handed over to Atwater's new mayor Wednesday during the City Council's reorganizational meeting.

In farewell comments, former Mayor Bruce Baker said he enjoyed his time serving on the council and was pleased with past accomplishments that will benefit the town.

He then turned over the gavel to Mark Olson, who had been serving as a councilman before being elected mayor.

The change in leadership also includes a familiar name.

Longtime councilman Dale Tagtow did not run for re-election. He's being replaced by Gary Tagtow, who was elected last fall. The two are related.

Another newcomer to the council is Pat Wortham.

Olson, Tagtow and Wortham ran unopposed in the November election.

Councilmen Scott Bjornson and Shane Hagstrom were not up for re-election last year.

"We're off to a great start and a good council," said City Clerk Goldie Smith.

The council agreed to contribute $17,566 to the Fire Relief Association to make up for inadequate fire state aid. The fire state aid comes from a portion of fire insurance premiums customers pay. The aid is used as income to help fund retirement for local firefighters.

This is the first time the city has had to contribute to the fund, said Smith. Usually the state aid is enough to cover retirement payments for Atwater's crew of firefighters, which has usually had 20 to 27 members.

But Smith said the current roster on the department includes about 35 individuals.

She said the amount of fire state aid the town receives is not enough to cover the larger crew, and the city has to make up the difference.

There has been an influx of new members to the crew. Smith said the older members, which she called "some of the strongest and bravest guys we've got in town," are reluctant to retire until the newer members have been fully trained.

Smith said the city will have to dig into reserves to find the needed funds.

In other action:

- The council approved a pull tab and bingo license at Phat Pheasant to benefit "Let's Go Fishing."

- The council was informed that the Fire Department intends to purchase a new tanker/pumper truck this summer that will replace two existing vehicles; and told that a new police squad car will be purchased in 2012.

- The board of appeals hearing, during which residents can register complaints about the assessed market value of their homes, was set for 6 p.m. April 7 at City Hall.

- The council approved a payment of $48,305 to Gopher State for work on the Hotel Atwater and a payment of $64,359 to Duininck Inc. for street work.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750