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City extends contract with lobbyist for U.S. Hwy 10 project

The Wadena City Council voted to extend the city's contract with lobbyist Ed Cain, who is working to get federal funding for the U.S. Highway 10 expansion, while expressing satisfaction with the work he has done so far.

Ulteig, the city engineer, also agreed to continue to pick up half the cost for the services of Legislative Associates, Int'l, of which Cain is president.

Cain's contract with the city ended June 1. He visited the council at its June meeting to give an update on progress since the city made the initial agreement with LAI in October 2009.

The state has agreed to a plan dividing the expansion of Highway 10 through Wadena into three phases, he said. The Minnesota Department of Transportation districts 3 and 4 also were able to put together $4 million in matching funds for the project. Congressman Jim Oberstar has given verbal support for the $20 million first phase of the project. Cain has met with Oberstar's staff and submitted a new request for $20 million instead of the initial $4 million, which was only for planning and environmental studies.

Although they overcame some obstacles, they are only about a third of the way to the finish line, Cain told the council in a letter that was also presented at the council meeting. If they don't follow up on the progress that's been made, there is a good chance the project won't be approved for funding.

Cain also updated the city on his work to obtain funding for the infrastructure project in southeast Wadena.

A project called Northeast Minnesota, administered by the Corps of Engineers, provides funds for cities and counties for municipal needs, he said. He made initial contact with the Corps, and Wadena County was added to the list of counties eligible for funding.

Councilman Don Niles expressed his support for the work Cain has accomplished.

"I think the ability to move this project from a $4 million project at the federal level to [the] $20 million level really is a feather in your cap," he said.

He particularly appreciates the agreement between the two MnDOT districts, who have often been at odds, Cain was able to "masterfully" work out, Niles said.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said he wanted to echo what Niles said. He's seen a lot of movement take place and he would certainly support an extension of Cain's services. There are budget issues to discuss, though. He pointed out that a representative from Ulteig was present in the council chambers.

Jade Berube, the city's engineer, said Ulteig would continue on with its involvement.

Wolden replied, "That's music to my ears."

City Administrator Brad Swenson said Ulteig's involvement makes it an easier decision. He suggested a year-long contract. It sounds like the transportation bill won't get done this year, and the city will need to have Cain on board until the bill is done, he said. The city doesn't have Cain's services in this year's budget so they will have to figure out a way to cover it.

"I think we wouldn't be where we're at without Ed's assistance," Swenson said. "I think our relationship with MnDOT has improved considerably with Ed's assistance."

Wolden made a motion to renew the city's one-year agreement with LAI with terms remaining the same and to have Cain draft a letter directed to Oberstar that the council will sign endorsing the through-town route for the expansion. Council members approved the motion.