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Exception granted to build on west U.S. 10 in Wadena

The Wadena City Council voted 4-1 on Thursday's special meeting to lift the building moratorium for Jim Merickel's old Express Central property, with the rest of the moratorium still in place for other areas along the west U.S. Highway 10 corridor.

In the last regular council meeting, Merickel had requested a variance to the building moratorium in order to let an incoming business use his property. The decision had been tabled in order to get City Attorney Jeff Pederson's opinion.

Mayor Wayne Wolden and council members Jeanette Baymler and Kay Browne supported the motion by Don Niles, while council member Toby Pierce voted nay.

Council members discussed whether the motion should be more specific about the use of the property.

Pederson said the city had three options on the moratorium. The two other options aside from amending the ordinance were to deny Merickel's request and leave the moratorium in place, or to repeal the moratorium altogether.

He said the moratorium, which expires in September, was in the context of comprehensive planning.

"We're not being overwhelmed in Wadena with new businesses trying to get in, so let's help make sure Jimmy can do this," Pierce said.

"[Merickel] wants to see something positive along the corridor, albeit a temporary sort of mode," Wolden said. "And when there is a funded project, let the sale begin."

He talked about the U.S. Highway 10 project to expand to four lanes being put off longer than they had hoped.

Express Central was one of the businesses hit by the June 17 EF4 tornado, and has relocated to the southeast industrial area.

"I really appreciate the fact that there is still an Express Central in Wadena," Wolden said. "They bought a building, they are paying taxes in our town, they are employing people in our town. ... They were being pursued, I think, by other communities, but they made the choice to stay here in Wadena, and I respect them for that."

In other action, the council approved a proposed lease management contract for Tim Fowler to be the FBO manager at the municipal airport.

"He does crop spraying right now," City Administrator Brad Swenson said.

He said that Fowler has more ideas to utilize the airport in the future, and right now he is renting the hangar.

"The proposal is that the hangar rent would be $1,200 a month, and the manager's contract would be $1,200 a month, so they basically wash out," he said. "His duties would be to have a presence at the airport, try to market the airport the best way he can. He's looking to try to have fly-ins and different events to bring people in and promote awareness of the airport."

The council approved a grant application for the Fire Department.

"Most years the fire department has applied for this DNR grant. It's a 50/50 grant," Swenson said.

The Fire Department aims to procure a phone unit, radios, pagers, hose, nozzles and turnout gear from the grant.

The city's part of the matching funds would include money raised from Fire Department bingo.

The council approved a resolution and agreement to sign with MnDOT about U.S. Highway 10 sewer manholes.

Public Works director Ron Bucholz said that while the state is responsible for storm drainage manholes, the city is responsible for sewer utility manholes. The city needs to replace manhole castings, he said.

The council also talked about a current problem of pet owners letting their dogs run unleashed and not cleaning their dog feces in Tapley Park and the BNSF Park, rather than the designated Bark Park at Sunnybrook, which is intended for owners who want to let their dogs run loose.

After the meeting, Bucholz told the Pioneer Journal that there is an ordinance (Chapter 10, Subd. 15) requiring people to clean up after their dogs.