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Wadena 2.0: Murdock may push for wellness center bonding

Wadena 2.0 continues to move forward with tornado rebuilding.

The latest Wadena 2.0 meeting took place Thursday, Feb. 17.

Wadena 2.0 chairman Don Niles said the organization's primary function is a clearinghouse and gathering place for all the different entities that were impacted by the June 17 tornado.

"At our last Wadena 2.0 meeting, we did a chart survey in order to try to ... determine what we would want to do in terms of prioritizing grant requests," Niles said.

He said they were working with the Initiative Foundation for coordinating funding efforts.

He said an idea was brought up to establish an endowed community fund.

"Apparently Staples already has such a fund," he said, adding that it is funded through donations, and the interest off the endowment goes to support ongoing activities in the community.

It could help with various operating costs such as the county fair and assisting with operating costs of the new community center, he said.

"That's very much in the early stages of discussion," Niles said.

The wellness center is one of the most talked-about items for rebuilding.

"Representative Mark Murdoch has drafted legislation that would provide ... state bonding funding to go towards construction of the project," Niles said.

Niles said that the state bonding funding is for the purpose of long-term development of state infrastructure, and it does not need to be repaid.

Murdock said Thursday he had put $15 million in funding into a bonding bill for 2011, most of the $18 million projected cost of the center.

Niles said state bonding would cover a large percentage of the project costs, and the St. Paul Saints stadium project had requested 80 percent -- $20 million funding for a $25 million project.

"Wadena paid a very heavy price for the tornado in terms of property damage, emotional trauma, and they are every bit as deserving," Niles said.

He said that the city had roughly $4 million on hand.

"The official line right now is -- from the Legislature, or at least from the Republican Legislature -- is there won't be a bonding bill," Niles said. "But part of what we heard when we were down there was there probably will be a bonding bill, but it won't be decided until the second week of May."

Rebuilding of the fairgrounds is another issue. The Center for Rural Design at the University of Minnesota has been in talks with Wadena County, and $7,500 in Initiative Foundation funds were allocated for the study.

Niles said that Trees For Wadena has been moving forward as well and is in the process of inventory of trees lost.

The school is moving forward, he said.

"The other thing that's still high on the radar screen is Highway 10 ... and the railroad spur down to the Leaf River Ag facility," he said.