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County looks for van

After years of discussion the wheels are moving forward in the development of a Wadena County transportation system for veterans. If developed the system would provide veterans with rides to area veteran's hospitals.

The commissioners reached a consensus at the Sept. 21 county board meeting to ask Highway Engineer Joel Ulring to investigate purchasing a van to put in a county transportation pool. The veteran's transportation program and other county departments would share the van.

Dave Anderson, veteran's service officer, said he looked into using the social services van, but discovered that vehicle is not available.

Commissioner Mary Harrison, chairwoman of the social services board, said the social services van is the newest and most reliable vehicle to transport children.

After meeting with Chairman Lane Waldahl and Social Services Director Paul Sailer, Anderson said they concluded that purchasing a seven-person county van was a better solution. Each department would contribute toward the cost of the van.

Anderson said purchasing a van for a vehicle pool would allow the van to be available for county business if veterans do not use the transportation program.

The board also discussed setting a mileage rate and reimbursing volunteer drivers for using their own vehicles, but decided it was more cost effective to purchase a vehicle.

Commissioner Dave Mattila asked Anderson if the van would need to have a lift for veterans in wheelchairs.

"In my opinion, no," Anderson said.

He added that if the program exploded in popularity, the county could talk to service organizations and the community about raising money to provide a lift. Anderson said most veterans confined to wheelchairs use private transportation services.

Veterans' Services will also try to raise money through local service agencies to pay volunteer drivers and for gas money, Anderson said.

Waldahl suggested looking at used vans. A less expensive vehicle might be a good option considering they do not know how much the van will be used, he said.

"We'll see what Joel [Ulring] has to say and move in that direction," Harrison said.

The board has not passed a motion to officially form the transportation system.

Other business at the meeting included:

• The board rejected the Wadena County Social Services request to lower its preliminary levy by $203,000 after approving more money than the department officially requested.

Auditor Char West said she contacted the Department of Revenue and they said it was acceptable to revise the preliminary levy.

Commissioner Bill Stearns proposed the board leave the levy the way it is in case there are any surprises in the budget before the end of the year.

"It's a preliminary [number] and we can cut it," Chairman Lane Waldahl agreed.

The board reached a consensus to leave the preliminary levy as it was approved at the Sept. 12 budget meeting.

• The board accepted Buttweiler's Do All, Inc., $64,720 bid to construct a rubber roof for the Wadena County Transit Building. The board also authorized Maintenance Superintendent Rudy Yglesias to use up to $5,000 out of the building fund to pay for work on the building as needed.

• The board approved Ulring's request to allow Assistant County Engineer Bill Ness to resign his full-time position and assume a part-time, non-union position likely to be referred to as an administrative engineer. The position would fill one of the two vacant engineering technician positions, he said. Ulring said Ness would like to have more time to pursue other interests. He described Ness as a "real asset to the highway department."

Commissioner Mary Harrison said, "I think we'll be lucky to keep him half time."

Auditor Char West said the county does not need to advertise for the position because promotions can be made within the county.

The board authorized Ulring to advertise for bids for the Wadena Depot Restoration beginning at 10 a.m. on Nov. 2. The board also authorized Ulring to advertise for bids for the mill and overlay of downtown Wadena Streets beginning at 10 a.m. on Nov. 16.

• The board nominated Commissioner Bill Stearns to represent Wadena County in the North Central Economic Development Association. Retiring Commissioner Dave Mattila's three-year term with the NCEDA is about to expire.

• The board signed a resolution to join the Minnesota Association of Governments Investing for Counties Fund, a county investment group. There was no fee to join the fund.