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Contentious discussions held over fairgrounds

Wadena County Highway Engineer Ryan Odden, who has worked closely with the rebuilding of the fairgrounds since the June 17 tornado, informed the board that he had been in contact with Adjusters International Inc., a firm that specializes in FEMA public assistance consulting. The completed consulting project would involve three phases. Odden requested approval to move forward with Phase One of the project. The scope of work for the initial phase includes:

• Gain an initial understanding of the extent and type of damage;

• Interview appropriate personnel;

• Evaluate ability to meet FEMA grant requirements;

• Identify select permanent repair projects that may qualify for hazard mitigation;

• Identify alternate funding sources;

• Review impact of proposed insurance settlements, if any;

• Assist in developing a comprehensive recovery strategy.

An oral presentation and written report, outlining findings and providing recommendations for areas where the county may be most vulnerable with regard to obtaining and retaining its maximum financial recovery available, any issues identified and recommendations of how to address the issues, would be provided to the county at the completion of the initial phase. A flat fee of $3,450 would be charged for the completion of Phase One.

The purpose of the consultation is to ensure that all damages eligible for insurance and FEMA funding are claimed and to obtain the maximum funding the county is legally entitled to under law. By motion of Commissioner Bill Stearns, second by Lane Waldahl and a unanimous vote in favor, the board approved hiring Adjusters International, Inc. to complete the Phase One consultation.

Odden advised the Board that the Center of Rural Design, which has been involved with the design for the rebuilding of the fairgrounds for several months, requested a joint county board and fair board meeting to present their work on the master plan for the fairgrounds.

Ag Society President Sheldon Monson brought to the board requests from the Ag Society regarding the fairgrounds. A request to proceed with constructing a vendor building on the fairgrounds, at an estimated $176,000, was presented. Monson asked for the county to fund the building using insurance reimbursement funds. The Ag Society showed interest in having the building completed in time for the 2011 County Fair. Commissioner Rodney Bounds said he felt the board should approve the funding and allow the Ag Society to proceed with the construction. Stearns and Waldahl expressed desire to wait for the construction to begin until the Center for Rural Design had presented its master plan and Adjusters International, Inc. had provided its initial consultation report.

Highway Engineer Ryan Odden was asked his opinion on the matter, to which he said that it would be possible to begin construction. However, the county would likely be better off in the long run if all construction, drainage and landscaping projects were delayed until a final, approved master plan was in place, as is the purpose for contracting with the Center for Rural Design and Adjusters International, Inc. Stearns suggested a short term solution of a tent-type vendor set-up for the 2011 County Fair. The board discussed at length options for solutions. Bounds and Commissioner Rodney Miller both expressed the desire to allow the Ag Society to proceed with construction, while Commissioners Stearns, Waldahl and Hillukka maintained the desire to wait until a completed master plan was in place. Miller offered a motion to proceed with the construction of the vendor building on the County Fairgrounds, seconded by Bounds. A roll call vote was taken with Commissioners Bounds and Miller in favor and Commissioners Stearns, Waldahl and Hillukka opposed; the motion failed.

In response to some questions regarding fence and property lines, Wadena County Highway Engineer Ryan Odden contacted the County Surveyor to provide a certificate of survey for the fairgrounds property. Odden initially looked at adjoining properties and many of those properties are meets and bounds descriptions. After discussion of the issue with the county surveyor, he stated that he is comfortable with the civil technicians completing the field and office research and providing a certificate of survey. Odden requested board permission to proceed with the certification; permission was granted.

Possible state shutdown sparks budget concerns

With the possible shutdown of non-essential state government operations in the near future, a discussion of the impact the county would experience ensued. Possible effects on the county include the elimination of the Homestead Credit to the county and elimination of disparity aid. A request for direction of 2012 budget preparation was given, whether budgets should be increased, decreased or remain the same, taking into consideration the fixed wages and salaries increase. After discussion, general consensus of the board was to instruct department heads to prepare budgets with a 0 percent increase in overall budgets.