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Moment of silence on tornado-anniversary council meeting

Wadena's City Council meeting on Aug. 17 was held two months after the EF4 tornado, almost to the minute, and Mayor Wayne Wolden requested a moment of silence.

The council passed a motion to transfer the Mid-Central Savings Bank account for tornado relief from the city of Wadena to Otter Tail-Wadena Community Action Council control the funds. An objective point rating system for aid applicants would be established.

City Attorney Jeff Pedersen proposed adding an emergency procedure clause to the original nuisance house ordinance. The emergency procedure would allow the city to take immediate action on private property if there is a threat to public health. "This is pretty standard stuff," Pedersen said. The motion passed.

The city passed a motion to permit a beer garden with a fence for the Tornado Recovery celebration to be held at the fairgrounds on Aug. 28.

In other celebration news, the council accepted a donation of playground equipment from Froggy 99.9 FM of Fargo and Rainbow Play Systems. WDC graduate Amanda Serrano, also known as Amanda Lee, worked on the fundraiser for the discounted equipment which is a wood-frame structure with cloth coverings. The League of Minnesota Cities said they would insure it. The city of Wadena will pay to clear a site for the equipment.

Dean Uselman said he wanted to dispel a rumor. "Supposedly I gave the authority to order this," he said. He was only on the radio spot with Amanda and Wayne Wolden and subsequently congratulated Amanda; he did not authorize anything himself, he said.

The location for the "Metropolis" playground piece is yet to be finalized.

The well-being of Wadena's kids was one theme for the meeting as the city council and Wadena-Deer Creek school officials discussed the parking problem for the upcoming school year. A WDC representative said students will park at the old high school, or along Highway 29 itself, and cross the highway to get to class at M State. "That's a bad situation," Wolden said.

The options discussed included using the old hockey rink as a parking lot and posting a new 20 mph school zone speed limit when children are present.

Dave Evans said there was no power yet to light up the proposed parking lot, as lights for the rink were destroyed in the tornado. "It's doable but there's going to be a cost," he said.

Don Niles suggested changing the existing 40 mph sign to a new speed limit of 30 mph. Tom Crawford of the Wadena police department, sitting in for Bruce Uselman, suggested having an official crosswalk at 7th Street.

Jeanette Baymler said official speed changes would have to be decided by MNDOT.

The city council passed a motion to send a letter to MNDOT in Detroit Lakes requesting to change the 40 mph speed limit to 30 mph.

Another school-related issue was designating a smoke free crossing zone between M State and the elementary school. Wolden had discussed legal issues with city attorney Jeff Pedersen, and the city cannot pass a law to prohibit smoking on sidewalks and other private property. The council passed a motion to post a sign requesting college students to refrain from smoking in the area where children walk.

City Administrator Brad Swenson distributed copies of a letter he had received from the Minnesota Department of Transportation saying they were willing to advance a scheduled 2013 U.S. Highway 10 construction project to 2011. It would entail paving the highway as part of maintenance. The project would not begin until after July 1 of that year because of using fiscal 2012 funding. The letter also mentioned that Congressman Jim Oberstar had requested funding to be directed toward the city of Wadena. Oberstar is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

The council passed a motion to compensate city department heads who are salaried but put in extensive hours in the wake of the June 17 tornado. "Two or three extra weeks were put in," Don Niles said.

The city decided to compensate the department heads by the regular rate of pay despite lack of assurance that FEMA would help.