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Former member Oja rejoins Norway City Council

NORWAY — Jeremy Oja, a past city council member and mayor, is back in Norway government.

Oja was chosen earlier this week from among three candidates to take the seat left vacant by Lee Meneghini’s resignation earlier this month. The other two applicants were Leonard Bietila and Joe Freyberg.

Oja has served almost 10 years in two stints on the council and was mayor from 2011 to 2015. But he fell just short of re-election in 2019, finishing behind Jeff Muraro for the third council seat at 226 votes to 217. Meneghini took second in the vote at 308, with Mayor Candy Brew topping the field at 313.

Council members cited Oja’s experience in unanimously tapping him to return. He immediately was sworn in to participate in the rest of Monday’s council meeting, conducted via Zoom.

“Thank you, everybody, for bringing me back,” Oja said.

With its full five members restored, the council in December will revisit its Nov. 2 decision not to draw up a potential new ordinance that would end restrictions on legal marijuana establishments in Norway.

The council Nov. 2 tied 2-2 on rejecting the change outright, with Brew and Bret Kraemer speaking against allowing retail marijuana sales in Norway. They cited the 2018 referendum results — while voters statewide approved recreational marijuana sales, it failed in Norway — plus a recent community survey that had 65% opposed to 35% in favor.

But council members Scott Popp and Muraro thought it was worth considering, given the potential tax revenue it could produce.

The tie vote means it can be brought back to the council at the Dec. 7 meeting, when Oja has had time to review the matter.

A representative of Ottawa Innovations LLC approached city officials in July about opening one of its Higher Love retail marijuana stores in Norway. The same company is working on a storefront in Crystal Falls and plans a growing and processing facility in that city’s industrial park.

In other business, the council approved:

— A $8,178.26 change order for Bacco Construction of Iron Mountain on the 2020 local paving project, bringing the total cost to $944,451.26, and authorized final payment of $67,237.17.

— A $9,787.50 change order for Coleman Engineering Company of Iron Mountain for additional work done on the 2020 local paving project after it was expanded this past summer. Coleman Engineering now will be paid up to $120,365.50 for its services.

— A $2,291 change order for Fortress Fence of Green Bay, Wis., to install fencing at Marion Park’s new softball field, bringing the total project cost to $30,753. The company and engineer Brett Baij of GEI Consultants requested some minor changes be made to the plans after a site review.

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