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County will begin updating Hazard Mitigation Plan

County Emergency Management Services Director Scott McKellep and Region 5 Community and Economic Development Planner Tad Erickson appeared before the Wadena County Board of Commissioners on March 6 to present their proposal for updating the county's Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The plan needs to be updated every five years. The current plan expires in May 2013. A county must have a plan in place in order to qualify for help from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the event of a disaster.

According to Region 5 literature prepared by Erickson, "A hazard mitigation plan is a strategy, or compilation of strategies, developed on the county level to assess possible risks associated with the many hazards that may have an adverse impact on both human-influenced and natural county resources."

It takes about 12 to 18 months to update a plan, Erickson told the board. That's why he and McKellep are starting now. First, they will submit a grant application to FEMA. Then, when it is approved, they will organize a planning team, delegate responsibilities and create the strategies. At the end of the 12 to 18 months, the plan will be completed and submitted to FEMA for approval. The entire process is paid for by FEMA, with the county and cities donating staff time equal to about 25 percent of the costs of the plan. Region 5 will assist the county at every step.

Commissioner Lane Waldahl said, "We went through a disaster and having this plan helped us out, so I'd recommend we approve the update."

McKellep and Erickson will move forward with the application process and report back to the board.

Cheryl Hills, Region 5 executive director, also appeared before the board with her colleague Joe Schultz, Region 5 business and loan developer. Hills gave a brief summary of Region 5's latest five-year report, and presented a copy to the board. She highlighted Region 5's financial recovery during the last five years, and all the revenues that the staff has helped bring to the five-county region in partnership with local entities.

Hill is currently working on three funding applications, and presented information on 13 grants, loans, and other revenue sources that have brought more than $2 million to the five-county region during the period from 2007 to 2011. Her report states, "Region Five is a growing organization that has substantially increased its capacity to serve its region in the last five years."

Some of the projects that Region 5 has accomplished include facilitating regional transportation planning; providing local communities with needed land use planning, safe routes to school plans, and hazard mitigation plans; facilitating intergovernmental collaboration; providing septic and well water loans to citizens; and providing business development loans its nonprofit subsidiary, NCEDA.

In other business, the board:

• approved an amendment to Zoning Ordinance No. 1 to include regulation of adult use/sexually oriented businesses.

• approved the appointment of Joanne White to the Parks Board.

• approved a renewal of the Twin Lakes Lodge liquor license.

• approved County Engineer Ryan Odden's request to receive and approve quotes for roof repair on the Home and Hobbies Building at the county fairgrounds.

• heard a report from Odden on the current status of FEMA paperwork and the delay in preparing an Environmental Assessment that is required before further work can be done in restoring the county fairgrounds.

• approved an amendment to the purchase of service agreement of the HR Consultant provided by NJPA to the county for a six-month trial, to include payment for labor negotiation services of up to 300 hours at $35 per hour. In addition, the consultant now agrees to be available to all county employees during her Wednesday office hours at the courthouse, and to function as a mediator in disputes between employees and their supervisors.

The next meeting of the Wadena County Board of Commissioners will be held on Tuesday, March 27, at 9 a.m. at the courthouse. Note that this is a change from the normal schedule of a Thursday meeting held the third week of the month.