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Wadena County Commission: Discussion needs to continue on Hwy 10 project

After years of discussion and planning, there remains some unanswered questions about the changes coming with the Hwy. 10 reconstruction project.

This led the Wadena County Commission to table a resolution on Tuesday for an easement of a portion of the Wadena County Fairgrounds by MnDOT for improvements being made to Hwy 10 in 2019. MnDOT offered $1,300 for damages or loss in value to the remainder of property receiving the sidewalk improvements. The location involves the entrance of the SE corner of the fairgrounds that will include the addition of a sidewalk meeting ADA compliance. The opinion was that there would be no impact to the fence at the fairgrounds.

Commissioner Bill Stearns made the motion to table this resolution until they had discussion with MnDOT regarding construction of storm sewers in conjunction with the reconstruction of the highway. Those storm sewers were a big part of the city of Wadena getting approved for $5 million in bonding funds for cleanup and stormwater work. While those funds were approved, it was clear that how that work would fit into the plans of MnDOT's work was not finalized.

"We want to drain the fairgrounds," Stearns said. In order to make that happen, "there's going to be some horse trading back and forth," Stearns said.

After further questions from commissioner Dave Hillukka as to how the highway will look, county coordinator Ryan Odden explained that the road will be designed as a four lane, but painted as a two lane.

Ryan Odden agreed to take the topic of storm water needs to Claudia Dumont, project manager with MnDOT.

In other actions, the commission approved:

• The 2019 budget amount of $5,205.41 for the Central Minnesota Emergency Services Board.

• A request to approve $78,760 for the 2019 Kitchigami budget.

• A quote from Protection Systems Inc. for a fire alarm system in the lower level of Human Services for $3,900 to be taken from the levy building fund.

• A request for $30,000 to sponsor The Economic Alliance (West Central Economic Development Alliance).

• A request for use of area ditches and right of ways Sept. 22-23 during the annual Twin Cities Trail Riders trip held in the Huntersville State Park.

• A request for a low-income septic system replacement grant in the amount of $6,400, which is 75 percent of the total cost. There remains $16,367 in the grant fund.

• A donation to the Parks Department for $2,500 from the Old Wadena Society to go towards the cost of building the new pavilion at Old Wadena Campground.

• An agreement for recount services for primary and general elections.

• Resolution for 2019 public transit operating grant at 15 percent local share for operating and 20 percent share for capital costs; providing 100 percent of the local share that exceed funds available from the state. A dollar amount was not yet available.

• A recommendation that the county board enter into the Joint Powers Agreement to create Counties Providing Technology, a new Joint Powers Organization that will allow member counties to cooperate in developing and sharing software and other technology and related services. This was recommended as a long-term cost-saving measure and method of ensuring that the specialized software programs that Wadena county needs are available and updated as the county's needs change. The auditor/treasurer and coordinator have been involved in a multi-county discussion of the formation of a JPA being created to buy the software company that the county uses in multiple offices. Both the coordinator and auditor/treasurer have signed non-disclosure agreements and each has seen detailed information about the business that cannot be publically shared, but is the basis of the recommendation. "This tax software is unique in that it meets the needs of rural counties," Commissioner Bill Stearns said.

The cost is about $50,000 a year to determine what properties owe for taxes, Stearns said. That cost would remain about the same under this agreement, county coordinator Ryan Odden said, considering the costs are for programmers to maintain the programs and consistently update.

Jim Hofer agreed to be the delegate with Dave Hillukka serving as alternate, after the appointment from chairman Sheldon Monson.

• A resolution to correct a clerical error on a conditional use permit for hours of operation for the Park Rapids Clay Dusters.

• Allowing Johnson Controls to begin reviewing utility bills and perform an onsite inspection. On June 19th, Ryan Odden and Sean Uselman met with Harold Lance a representative of Johnson Controls Inc., a Sourcewell vendor, to learn more about self-funded solutions to lower the utility costs of the Wadena County Courthouse and jail buildings. The first phase is at no cost to the county. Johnson Controls will review the current and past utility bills and have an engineer perform a site inspection. The Building Committee discussed and recommended the first phase of analyzing the utility usage and condition of the building systems. The second phase would come at a cost, but the county would own the engineering data that they find.

• A recommendation to contract with Schik Engineering (New York Mills) for a structural analysis of the Wensman Building for the purposes of determining the structural stability of the west wall and if it is possible to cut openings in the wall. The Wensman building is being remodeled for use a drop-in site for the county. Odden said the building committee is still looking at fixing the exterior and an interior west wall. Schik did not think the analysis would cost over $2,500. The board approved the analysis not to exceed $2,500, with all in favor.

• IT director/ Interim Supervisor of the Auditor-Treasurer Department staff Curt Kreklau updated commissioners on the election process, noting that 60 election judges will be trained on the use of new election equipment. The new poll pads are now certified with the secretary of state. The county is set up to take absentee ballots and has received their first absentee ballot.

• Odden noted that utilities are being removed to make way for construction of County Road 4. The hold up with the project seems to be waiting for concrete manhole structures. Work should happen in the first two weeks of August on this reroute project unto Hwy 10.

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