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County approves new Master Plan for Wadena County Fairgrounds

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At its Nov. 17 meeting, the Wadena County Board of Commissioners received another version of the county fairgrounds master plan, this one created by architect Tony Stoll of BHH Partners, Perham.

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The new plan builds on the earlier plan produced by the Center for Rural Design (CRD) in June and presented to the board. Later, the CRD revised its plan to take into account ideas from the commissioners and members of the Ag Society Board and presented it again in July.

At its July 24 meeting, the board decided to ask Tony Stoll to take a look at the plan and formulate still another version.

Stoll's version includes complete roads and walking paths around the site, connecting all areas. It includes buildings to replace those destroyed by the June 17, 2010 tornado, and some new features, as well as additional parking.

After discussion, the board voted to approve the new master plan and go forward with its implementation, as soon as FEMA completes an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) on the entire Fairgrounds rebuilding project.

The board only recently learned of the requirement for the EAW when construction was going to begin on the Sheriff's Quonset Storage Building, but was delayed so that an environmental assessment could be done on that building. The county has received the approval of FEMA for a two-year extension to complete the rebuilding of the Fairgrounds. Now FEMA has to approve the new Fairgrounds Master Plan and wait for the EAW before anything more can be done.

Commissioner Bill Stearns told the board that County Engineer Ryan Odden and his staff have completed all the schematics for the Fairgrounds buildings, and will start to work on the design of the new drainage system. They were waiting for the board to approve the location of the new buildings before they could continue with the water management design.

Odden said that he now has a contact at the Department of Homeland Security that he can get in touch with weekly. The contact said that the paperwork on the county's various projects varies from 25 to 80 percent completed. Odden believes that all the construction on the new buildings will happen at about the same time next spring.

Mike Olson, newly elected president of the Ag Society Board, was present at the meeting on Nov. 17. He said that he didn't know much about the Fairgrounds rebuilding project, and asked the board if they would like him to serve on the committee. Former president Sheldon Monson will continue to serve, and could help Olson learn the history of the project. The board agreed that having Olson on the committee would be a good idea.

But, Stearns said, "Before we turn another shovel, we've got to get all this approved [by FEMA]."

Olson asked whether a new storage shed could be added to the plan. Stearns said that there used to be one on the plan, but it was removed. He said that a storage shed was relatively inexpensive to build, and could be done after all the FEMA buildings are put up.

The board voted to have Odden continue to track the bills that are coming in for work by the architect, work by the fencing contractor, etc., and approve them and send them on to Auditor/Treasurer Char West for payment. Documentation of everything is vital to the process of reimbursement by FEMA.

Also present at the Nov. 17 board meeting were staff members from the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) based in Staples. Executive Director Todd Lyscio and Director of Administration Human Relations Services Sue Nanik attended the meeting at the request of Commissioner Lane Waldahl, board liaison to NJPA. Lyscio, Nanik, Waldahl, Stearns, Commissioner Rodney Bounds and County Attorney Kyra Ladd participated in a discussion about the possible provision of human resources (HR) services by NJPA to the county on a contract basis.

The discussion resulted in a request by the board for Nanik to meet with county department heads to formulate a list of the HR services they need. The meeting will take place on Dec. 7.

The county has no employee tasked with providing HR services. Wadena County is one of about five Minnesota counties with no human resource director.

The NJPA representatives said that they had been gathering information from cities, counties, school districts, and other forms of local government about what HR services could be provided on a contract basis by NJPA. Nanik said in response to a question from Bounds that she thought she could have a proposal drafted by Jan 1., 2012.

In other business, the board:

• approved an agreement in which the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency will delegate the administration of a Rural Housing Rehabilitation Program to the Central Minnesota Housing Partnership. The administration used to be done by the Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority, but that organization can no longer provide these services.

• rescinded a motion approved on Oct. 19 to rejoin the Minnesota rural Counties Caucus.

• approved a contract with attorney Ryan Ries for the provision of public defender services for juvenile offenders in 2012.

• approved a five-year renewal of the Lease Agreement between the county and the Workforce Center.

• approved an agreement with the University of Minnesota for providing county extension programs locally during 2012.

• approved a motion to permit Cindy Pederson, Director of Public Health, to serve as the director of the Tri-County Board of Health for 2012.

• approved several arrangements for Management Information Systems (MIS) services to be provided by county employees when Kevin Stensrude is deployed to Qatar in January 2012.

• approved a recommendation that Mike Gibson conduct a pay equity study of two positions in the County Assessor's Office, assisted by union business manager Joanne Derby.

• accepted a Safe and Sober Grant for 2012 on behalf of the Sheriff's Department.

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