Weather Forecast


Wadena 2.0 working on endowment fund

Wadena 2.0 chairman Don Niles presented an update on the group's efforts at the Wadena Rotary Club meeting on Wednesday.

There are plans to establish a new community endowment fund through the Initiative Foundation.

"They provide training and leadership and fundraising, and they also contribute some of their own funds as matching dollars," Niles said. "Even before we've established our own fund here, it looks like we have $50,000, subject to matching requirements."

The Initiative Foundation chose Wadena for a community award to be presented Oct. 28.

As decisions are made and projects go forward for rebuilding after the tornado, the Hockey Association is working independently to build a steel structure over the old community center ice slab in order to have an indoor winter season until the new complete wellness center is constructed. The $668,000 project is from community center insurance proceeds. Afterward, the steel structure could possibly be sold as a bus garage.

Niles said the wellness center project is still being planned for a 2012 bonding request from the Minnesota Legislature, and at the Sept. 25 special city council meeting, Perkins + Will was instructed to try to reduce the budget for the wellness center. The last plan with the requested amenities was $19.1 million.

Niles said that Representative Mark Murdoch informed them that the Wadena request will go into the House bonding bill, and that the issue is not about whether Wadena will be in the bill or if it is requesting too much but whether the Senate side will allow a bonding bill at all.

He said that with a revised reduction in cost, the city will contribute a greater local percentage and look better.

Other bonding requests around the state, Niles said, include ice sheets for Mankato, 100 percent financing for Minneapolis for the Target Center improvements at $8 million, 100 percent construction costs at a Theodore Wirth park project, Rochester for a Mayo Civic Center project and St. Paul for $27 million of $47 million for a new St. Paul Saints stadium.

"I throw those out just for comparisons because sometimes you'll hear people saying we're asking for too high of a percentage or we're asking for too much money. The reality is, we suffered from a tornado. Most of what we're rebuilding is something that was lost," Niles said. "It's only responsible to take an opportunity like this and build for the next 70 years and not simply put up what we had in the past."

Niles said that while Wadena 2.0 focused on public infrastructure and the Long Term Recovery Committee focused on individual property loss, they have been working together more now.

MnDOT has appointed a point person for Wadena, which is divided between District 3 and District 4 by U.S. Highway 71.

Niles cited past achievements of Wadena 2.0 including the Minnesota Design Team visit last fall, bringing in architects Perkins + Will and construction manager Kraus-Anderson to conceptualize the new wellness center with $750,000 in planning money from the state, master plan option for the fairgrounds, funding for a railroad spur extension and other projects related to tornado rebuilding.

Niles said some of the objections to a fairgrounds event center included concern about competition for the Elks and VFW.

Niles said that Wadena 2.0 has no authority of its own but is comprised of community stakeholders. They have had 17 meetings, roughly every month. The group was started shortly after the June 17, 2010 tornado.