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Wadena wellness center ranked high in DEED grant recommendations

Wadena's proposed regional wellness center made the first round cut in the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Capital Projects Grant Program to possibly receive funding.

Wadena, which is asking for $4,625,000, was ranked second of 12 projects in the northern region of the state, just behind a $10 million Duluth downtown development and public parking ramp project.

Wadena also had the seventh highest score overall among the 37 projects determined to be qualified for the $47.5 million grant program and divided into regions: 12 projects in the northern region of the state, 13 in the southern region and 12 in the metro region.

J.D. Burton of lobbying firm Flaherty and Hood, speaking at the Wadena City Council meeting Tuesday evening, said Gov. Mark Dayton would make the final decision on which of the 37 projects would receive funding and the city of Wadena had made a strong case for itself.

Wadena Mayor Wayne Wolden said the math puts Wadena in an interesting position: if Dayton goes by DEED's exact scoring recommendations in his final decision without regard to even regional distribution, Wadena would land in the middle of the $47.5 million cutoff with about $2 million short.

The projects scoring higher than Wadena are Litchfield with 99 points for wastewater infrastructure improvements at $2,550,000; Hector with 93 points for wastewater system improvements at $1,250,000; Duluth at 92 points for its $10 million downtown project; Lonsdale with 86 points for street and utilities improvements for a new business park at $2,121,800; Redwood/Renville Solid Waste with 85 points for a material recovery facility at $2,256,050; and St. Paul at 77 points for a baseball stadium at $27 million.

Those six projects combined would add up to $45,177,850.

Wadena scored 75 points overall, receiving the full 20 points on Regional Impact and the full 5 points on Other Public Benefits. It received 17 of 25 possible points for Project Readiness, 17 of 25 possible points for Jobs and 15 of 25 possible for Investment and Leverage.

Wadena originally made a request for wellness center funding with the 2012 state bonding bill, but was denied along with other local projects. Local project representatives were then given the chance to apply for a piece of the $47.5 million set aside for DEED's discretion. Wolden said he is hopeful the city will hear back about the project before the week is over.

Other area projects making the first round cut include:

• Becker County for a solid waste facility and recycling program, 8 of 12 points for the northern region, requesting $1,153,025;

• Detroit Lakes for renovation of the Pavilion and construction of a trail, 10 of 12 points for the northern region, requesting $1,625,000;

• and Todd County for a senior citizens healthy living center in Long Prairie, 12 of 12 points for the northern region, requesting $500,000.

Area projects that did not make the cut after initial screening included the city of Park Rapids for drinking water improvements and the city of Perham for community center improvements.