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Wadena County cuts back Kitchigami Library appropriation by $10,000

At its Dec. 13 meeting, the Wadena County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to cut $10,000 from the customary $90,000 annual appropriation for support of the Kitchigami Regional Library.

When questioned about the vote, Board Chair Rodney Bounds said, "We have to live within our means."

Commissioner Ralph Miller explained his vote by saying, "People can buy their own books if they want to read."

Kitchigami Regional Library System currently operates a branch library in the city of Wadena and mobile library stops in Nimrod, Sebeka and Menahga. Information provided by the director, Marian Ridge, indicated that in 2010, loans of books and audiovisual materials by the Wadena library declined by nearly 4 percent, while mobile library use increased at the three stops in the three small towns. In 2011, Wadena library circulation decreased another 6 percent, while two of the three small town stops also decreased. Menahga is the busiest of all the Kitchigami mobile library communities.

Also at the Dec. 13 meeting, the board approved several actions recommended by the Wadena County Planning Commission. One of the actions was approval of a 12-month extension of the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) of Russell and Susan Nystrom to construct and operate a 1.65 megawatt Wind Energy System in Section 8 of Aldrich Township.

The Nystroms and their energy developer, Private Energy Systems of Oakdale, Minn., appeared before the board and explained how their project has progressed and the obstacles they have encountered. One of the obstacles was the surprising refusal of Todd-Wadena Electric Co-op (TWEC) to agree to buy the electricity that the wind turbine will produce when it is completed. Although TWEC claims to promote economic development and renewable energy, it declined to do so in this case. Minnesota law requires utilities to interconnect with local, small-scale renewable energy producers, and TWEC representative Tim Pavek gave no explanation as to why the organization said no to the Nystroms.

Russ Nystrom and developer David Ault told the board that since they can't sell electricity to TWEC, they will use the electricity their turbine produces for something else. They will form a new company to make anhydrous ammonia using a process developed by scientists at the University of Minnesota-Morris.

Also at the Dec. 13 meeting, the board learned that a large new State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grant had just been awarded jointly to the Tri-County Health Board composed of Morrison, Todd, and Wadena Counties, and to Cass County, for $343,610. The grant runs for 18 months and begins on Jan. 1, 2012. Public Health Director Cindy Pederson told the board that winning this grant entitles Wadena County to be considered for additional state health department grant money. The outcome of the additional consideration should be known next month.

In other business, the board:

• approved a contract between the Public Health Department and the Sheriff's Department for correctional health services for 2012, and approved contracts for early childhood screenings, immunization outreach, and several other programs.

• approved a CUP for Jon and Bonita Oestreich to operate an in-home daycare on their property in Section 15 of Blueberry Township in an R-1 Suburban Residence District.

• approved a CUP for Jason and Bridgette Ohrmundt to operate an in-home daycare on their property in Section 20 of Wadena Township in an R-1 Suburban Residence District.

• approved a gambling permit for England Prairie Pioneer Club.

• approved County Engineer Ryan Odden's plans to prepare quotations and bids for 2012 purchases of equipment rental, metal culverts, aggregate materials, aggregate crushing, bituminous materials, traffic signs and sign posts as needed for routine maintenance and operations from the Road and Bridge budget.

• approved project nominations to the 2016 Area Transportation Plan from Wadena County.

• approved project nominations for the 2011 Local Road Improvement Program.

• approved acceptance of the 2012 Natural Resources Block Grant at the request of SWCD Director Darren Newville.

• called for bids for 2012 official newspaper. Bids are due Jan. 3, 2012, at 8 a.m. at the courthouse.

• approved a cost estimate for remodeling of the County Recorder's Office at $29,142, and authorized Building Maintenance Supervisor Sean Uselman to proceed with the project.