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Verndale 'eyesore' to be burned

A local eyesore will soon go up in smoke after the Wadena County Board authorized Missy Lund, tax specialist, to allow the Verndale Fire Department to use a Verndale home for a practice burn. The board also authorized Lund to dispose of the three mobile homes and other junk on the tax-forfeited property at 16919 201st Ave.

"Every time I go by that place, I wince," said County Board Chairman Lane Waldahl.

Lund said that Lee Brekke, assessor, agreed that the property would be more valuable for resale without the buildings.

Another option for destroying the home was to have Sentenced to Serve tear down the building, she said.

Waldahl said it made more sense to let the Verndale Fire Department burn it down.

The cost for the fire department practice burn is approximately $1,000 to $1,100, Lund said. The estimate includes an asbestos inspection that would cost $600-$700. Lund said the inspection has to be done whether the house is burned or torn down.

Commissioner Mary Harrison requested that Lund inform the board if the cost of the cleanup became "huge."

Auditor Char West said STS has already cleaned up a lot of the junk on the property. The cleanup has gotten to be bigger than they were expecting, she said.

The county has spent $5,099.81 to clean up the property since it became tax forfeited in May 2004.

The cost of the cleanup and burn can be assessed towards the sale of the property, Lund said. The county will have to wait until the property goes to auction to know if it will be a full assessment.

The adjacent property owners have been patient and helpful while the county has dealt with the issue, West said.

Harrison said the property has attracted "people going out there for who knows what purpose."

West said the sheriff's department has been out there several times.

"The land is nice," Harrison said. "It's the junk on it."

In other business at Tuesday's meeting:

• Chairman Lane Waldahl informed the board of Jail Administrator Tom Speed and Emergency Manager Scott McKellep's request that employees not ask for admittance through the back door of the courthouse after 4:30 p.m. Speed and McKellep would like them to enter through the law enforcement lobby, so they can be visually identified by the sheriff's department.

• Highway Engineer Joel Ulring responded to the board's request to look at developing a county motor pool that would facilitate a transportation service for veterans. He is in the process of gathering information from the county departments on what vehicles they have, he said. He will inventory that information and present a recommendation to the board.

• The board approved Ulring's recommendation to hire John Schornack to fill the Signman/Maintenance Worker II position in the highway department. Schornack will start on Oct. 10 at $13.73 per hour. He has 23 years of experience with Lund Boats in New York Mills.

"I was impressed," Ulring said about Schornack. "We had a handful of fairly well-qualified individuals to choose from. He seemed like the best one for the job."

• The board authorized Wadena County Public Health to sign a contract with Douglas County Public Health for temporary back-up sanitarian services as needed at cost of time and travel effective Oct. 1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2006. The state requires a back-up sanitarian at all times, according to Karen Nelson, public health director. Morrison County provided the back-up for 18 years, but its sanitarian has been trained for another job and is no longer available. Morrison's new sanitarian is not registered yet.

• The board signed certificates of appreciation for Carolyn Pulju and Gwynne Gildow's completed three-year-terms of service as Public Health Advisory citizen representatives.

• The board approved Solid Waste/Planning and Zoning Director Deana Skov's request to post a newly formed half-time solid waste and half-time planning and zoning clerical position in-house for 10 days. The board also authorized Skov to advertise for the position if it is not filled in-house.

• The board approved a conditional use application for Pamela and Michael Withage in Thomastown Township to change the classification of agricultural buildings to commercial storage and rental space for car restoration and willow furniture making.

• The board approved the Hay Group classification change recommendations, but decided to leave the Human Services Director III position at grade 59 instead of raising to grade 60 after changing the job title from Human Services Director II.

"If there's a change at least we have a step to go to," Chairman Waldahl said about future job responsibility adjustments.

Both grades are within merit system minimum and maximum requirements, the board said.

Four new positions received grades. They include emergency management at grade 53, veteran's service officer at grade 54, community health specialist at grade 54 and administrative assistant planning, zoning/ solid waste and parks at grade 49. Previously unclassified job titles included collection officer at grade 51, collections and accounting unit supervisor at grade 55, social services adult mental health trainee at grade 53, social services adult supervisor trainee at grade 55, financial assistance supervisor at grade 54 and family based services provider at grade 51. The social services administrative services supervisor was reconsidered at grade 55 and the sheriff's office administrative assistant was reconsidered/change in job duties--no change at grade 52.