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Wadena Board accompanies architects, engineers, and contractors on Fairgrounds tour

The site for rain garden, not yet installed1 / 3
WSN Engineer Jeff Kuhn, right, with County Engineer Ryan Odden2 / 3
Sheriff Mike Carr Jr. discusses walk door problems at the new Sheriff's Building with contractor Jeff from Black Pearl Builders3 / 3

By Rin Porter

Concerned about stormwater problems, the unfinished Sheriff's Building, grandstand construction issues, and the possible addition of a new building to the Fairgrounds complex, Wadena County Commissioners held a special meeting on Sept. 10 that began at the Fairgrounds.

BHH Partners architecture staff, Widseth Smith Nolting (WSN) engineers, Black Pearl Builders, Ag Society Board members, Auditor/Treasurer Judy Taves, County Attorney Kyra Ladd, Sheriff Mike Carr, Chief Deputy Bill Cross, County Engineer Ryan Odden, Maintenance Supervisor Sean Uselman, Maintenance Foreman Cody Iglesias, all five county commissioners, and Social Service Director Paul Sailer, along with members of the media, spent nearly two hours touring relevant areas of the Fairgrounds.

Commissioners were concerned about standing water from the weekend's rain. That and the general drainage plan for the Fairgrounds was discussed with WSN Engineer Jeff Kuhn and Odden. Both men indicated that the rain gardens, which remain uninstalled, will reduce the problem of standing water once they are installed. But the water that forms ponds after each heavy rain event are not likely to go away, ever.

"The site is really flat," Kuhn emphasized. "We have to surface-drain it. We can't put in storm sewer or discharge it to the north."

Kuhn explained, "We lowered this area [so we could store] the water and put in the rain gardens."

The commissioners, Odden, Mike Olson of the Ag Society, and Kuhn discussed the possibilities of adding more culverts, bringing in more fill dirt to raise the level of parts of the site, digging a ditch that would run northwest to southeast to draw the water away from the grassy areas and other places where it is not wanted, regrading parts of the site, and so on, as potential methods of reducing the size of standing water ponds, mud, and erosion, and modifying some areas to make them wheelchair accessible.

No decisions were made, but everyone received a lot of information and heard the ideas of others about how to solve the water problems.

At the Sheriff's Building, commissioners heard from Sheriff Carr and Deputy Cross about their frustration with the continuing delay in completing the building, which was supposed to be done on Jan. 18.

The remaining problems with the building are the seven walk doors which don't work correctly, the installation of either natural gas or propane to act as secondary heat, and the removal of dirt from behind the building so that an impound lot can be constructed there.

After extensive discussion among commissioners, Sheriff Carr, Deputy Cross, Iglesias, and Black Pearl builders --which was heated at times -- Jeff from Black Pearl Builders made representations that he would return to the building on Sept. 12 to begin fixing the door problems. Iglesias recommended removing the doors, hardware, and doorframes and ordering new ones instead, but was overruled.

At the grandstand, Odden and Architect Chad Bormann discussed problem areas they themselves pointed out, along with Commissioner Dave Hillukka: (1) the bench seats are too high for the feet of people under 5 feet 7 inches tall to reach the ground, (2) some of the precast concrete pieces that form the tiers for the seats were the wrong size, and gaps remained, which were covered by pieces of aluminum that could be easily removed, (3) the lowest steps of the stairways on either end of the grandstand are too high off the ground, and can cause people to trip and fall when descending the stairs. (4) the bench seats were constructed from treated lumber, instead of plastic-covered lumber.

The final stop in the tour was the proposed site for a new Transit Building to be used to house Friendly Rider buses. If the county submits a proposal that meets required guidelines, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the federal government will pay for construction of the building.

Odden offered commissioners three possible locations at the Sept. 3 board meeting, and commissioners chose the site at the fairgrounds. But when they were standing at the fairgrounds location, commissioners and the rest of the people present realized that the location was too close to the Sheriff's Building, and would not allow enough space for buses and Sheriff's Department vehicles to maneuver.

To eliminate this problem, several people suggested placing the proposed building further back, very close to the west boundary of the fairgrounds, almost right up to the fence line. This location would give buses and sheriff's vehicles plenty of room, and allow snowplows and other maintenance equipment to gain access to both sites.

After the tour, everyone returned to the 4H Building, where the meeting had been called to order at 9 a.m. Commissioners and Taves processed several items of business, including making a decision to withhold a portion of the payment requested by Black Pearl Builders, as an incentive to the company to keep its promise to complete the Sheriff's Building by repairing and/or replacing the walk doors. The board set a deadline of Oct. 1 for completion.

The board voted to change the secondary fuel at the Sheriff's Building from natural gas to propane, with a tank and connections to be installed later in the week, as soon as possible. Bormann agreed to make the change and coordinate the installation.

In addition to the Sheriff's Building issues, the grandstand issues were addressed. Commissioners voted to request that BHH Partners meet with Commissioner Jim Hofer, chair of the Building Services Committee, and negotiate an agreement by which BHH Partners would bear part of the cost of replacing the treated lumber bench seats with plastic-covered bench seats, as required by the project specifications. Odden and Bormann will work out a way to replace the aluminum temporary hole covers in the grandstand tiers. Mike Olson said he will install a temporary fix to deal with the lowest steps of the two stairways that are too high off the ground.

The decision on the location for the proposed Transit Building was postponed to allow the Highway Department or a local contractor to move several truckloads of dirt from the potential site, so that MNDOT representatives could inspect it and give commissioners an idea about whether the site would be approved.