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Wadena 2.0 group excited about collaboration

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"Vision."

"Cooperation."

"Excellence."

These were some of the words used by members of a new committee tasked with rebuilding some of the major institutions in Wadena after the June 17 tornado. The Wadena 2.0 group has members of the community center, hospital, school, fairgrounds, hockey association, city, college and many other interested groups sitting around a common table, brainstorming ways to rebuild Wadena even better than before the EF4 twister hit.

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"We have an opportunity now for some collaboration," said city council member Don Niles, who brought all of the parties together for an introductory discussion Monday night.

One of the more intriguing ideas that came out of the getting-to-know-you meeting came in the form of a clearly strong bond between WDC schools and M State college. Sitting shoulder to shoulder, WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom, School Board Chairwoman Ann Pate, M State President Ann Valentine, M State Wadena Provost Cris Valdez and M State Dean Monte Johnson spoke of their sharing agreement for 2010-11, but also of a more intimate alliance.

Dahlstrom spoke about a "pre-K through 12, or pre-K through 14 school campus," referring to the possibility of more integration between the school and college. Valentine spoke about the move to "infuse higher education into K-12."

Joel Beiswenger, CEO of Tri-County Hospital, talked about the need for a Regional Wellness Center, an idea the hospital backed as a large-scale expansion of the community center before the tornado hit.

"Our mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve," Beiswenger said. "Not just physical health, but spiritual, mental and economic health."

Mike Craig, one of many in attendance representing the community center, said when the Regional Wellness Center concept was born, they approached the school about facility needs, but the school was satisfied with what it had at the time.

"That's all changed now," Craig said, pointing to the new opportunity to work together.

Pat Boline, representing the Hockey Association, said his group's focus is getting a new sheet of ice that will be easy to keep up.

"Nothing elaborate," he said, "but something we can run and maintain."

Mayor Wayne Wolden reiterated his priority of seizing this opportunity to get a through-town route of four lanes of U.S. Highway 10 reconstruction done. Both MnDOT and Rep. Jim Oberstar's office are working on that possibility, they reported.

Everyone who was asked to be on a steering committee said they'd be happy to do that. The next meeting of the group has not yet been scheduled at press time.

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