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Council works out some wellness center details

The Wadena City Council held a special meeting Dec. 21 to discuss the future of the regional wellness center.

The modified Perkins + Will architects' plan currently includes one racquetball court. Council members Toby Pierce and Don Niles said it would work better to have two, and to communicate this to Perkins + Will.

The council discussed other details of the building plans.

City Administrator Brad Swenson said that right up until bidding, Perkins + Will can modify building details, and the council should not spent a lot of time picking over details now.

Pierce said he had talked with Scott Dau, manager of Leaf River Ag, and Dau was thinking about demolition of the tornado-damaged former fertilizer building standing on U.S. Highway 10.

Swenson said this is not the right time to take ownership of the site for the community center. The terms of the agreement with Leaf River Ag have not been met - while the city has received confirmation from the Federal Rail Authority about a grant for a rail spur, the state has not given confirmation for their portion of the grant.

The council discussed whether the demolition would be at Leaf River Ag's expense or the city's expense, since Leaf River Ag currently owns the site but the city is to take ownership of the site for the community center when the southeast railroad spur is secured.

Council member Kay Browne said the city might have to be look at bids if public funding would go to the demolition.

The council discussed commitment letters and said there needed to be better communication between them and the school, especially on the issue of whether there will be a walkway between the school and community center.

Swenson and Niles said it would be good to get a walkway.

The council discussed "Plan B," an Otsego building which the community center organization has secured.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said having an indoor pool is important.

Council member Jeanette Baymler asked if there is a therapy pool in Plan B, and Swenson said there could be a slot for it.

On the old community center, Swenson said that city attorney Jeff Pederson said they might need to terminate the lease. He said there has been legislation that gives tax exemptions to ice arenas, and the original purpose of the old community center's lease agreement was to keep the building tax exempt.

Niles said that there are no lights in the parking lot of the hockey building on the site of the old community center, and if someone were to be hurt, the city could be potentially liable because of being on the lease.

Swenson said he got a voicemail from DEED that the grant agreement for the community center ends Dec. 31, but they can write and ask for an extension. He said that if not for the Legislature rejecting bonding, work on the wellness center would have been underway.

The council mulled over naming rights in fundraising - whether there would be any legal issues with a city-owned building where private donors could have areas of the wellness center named after them.

Pierce said that with the old community center, names were applied after the fact, and not as an incentive during fundraising.

As per the fundraising committee, Baymler said that no more than two city council members should be allowed on it. Niles is on this committee.

Brad Swenson said Matt Killian of the Initiative Foundation communicated that grant is not official until it goes to committee.

Wolden said the Ballard and King report would be ready after the new year.

Perkins + Will would also have a report by the new year, Swenson said.

The council discussed meeting with Representative Larry Howes of the bonding committee and Senator Gretchen Hoffman.