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City council organizes for 2014

Council members spent time taking care of organizational matters that occur annually, and considered several proposals, some of which they acted on and some of which they tabled at the city council meeting Jan. 14. Here are the highlights of the Council meeting:

• Mason Bros TIF Resolution approved. The council held a public hearing, and then voted to approve a resolution establishing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District 1-14 for Mason Bros, so that the company can expand its bakery building by 10,000 sq ft. The TIF amount of $158,506 will be used to finance a portion of the site development and infrastructure costs. The agreement runs for nine years, although the building construction is expected to be completed by Dec. 2014. Jeff Harrison, representing Mason Bros at the council meeting, said that the company expects to create additional jobs. Wadena will provide financial assistance on a pay-as-you-go basis for TIF-eligible costs such as infrastructure and site improvement. The Development Agreement was not approved at the meeting, but was tabled to allow time for further discussion with the financial consultant.

• Automatic Fire Mutual Aid Plan tabled. The council heard a proposal from Wadena County Emergency Services Director Luke Manderschied to include the City of Wadena in the existing Automatic Fire Mutual Aid system. All the other cities' fire departments in the county have already joined. Fire Chief Dean Uselman explained the Wadena FD's initial reluctance to join, due to concern about costs, but Uselman said he had changed his mind and now supported joining the system. City Administrator Brad Swenson estimated the average additional cost to the City would be $2,400 annually.

• Under the Automatic FMA system, the county dispatcher would make the decision whether to automatically page an additional fire department to assist the closest fire department when a structure fire is called in to 911. Under the current mutual aid system, the first firefighter on the scene makes the decision and relays it to the dispatcher, who then pages another department. There is some delay connected to this process.

• The council voted to table the decision until the Leaf River, Wadena, and Wing River Township boards could be consulted. This consultation needs to take place, the council believed, because costs for paging additional fire departments would be charged to the townships when the structure fire was in their territory. A meeting will be scheduled soon.

• Grunst Chiropractic handicap parking space approved. At the request of this local business, Police Chief Naomi Plautz studied the handicap parking situation near Grunst Chiropractic. She discovered that there was no nearby handicap parking space, and that disabled people would be required to cross a busy street if they parked in the closest handicap parking space. The council voted to establish the one additional space near this business.

• Tornado vacant lot tax abatement proposal tabled. Wadena Development Authority (WDA) Director Dean Uselman presented this proposal to the council for discussion. He said that there are 28 vacant lots in Wadena still waiting for homes to be built on them. They are vacant because the houses on them were destroyed by the June 2010 tornado. As an incentive to encourage home building, a committee developed a plan to offer 10-year tax abatement to landowners to build owner-occupied or rental housing on the lots. Several conditions apply, including a minimum valuation for buildings of $75,000, and meeting all zoning requirements. Mayor Wayne Wolden and Uselman will visit the county board and the school district to explain the proposed policy to them, since the tax abatement would include county and school taxes. The proposal will be taken up again at the February council meeting.

• Police Sergeant/Investigator position filled. Chief Plautz presented her recommendation for promoting Officer Brandon Pearson to the vacant position of Sergeant/Investigator. Plautz held interviews Jan. 6 and evaluated Pearson as the best qualified candidate. He has been with the Wadena Police Department for seven years. The promotion is effective Jan. 26. The Council voted to approve Pearson's promotion, and to allow Plautz to begin recruiting for a new patrol officer to replace Pearson.

• Amendment to Kraus-Anderson Construction manager contract approved. After hearing an explanation from Swenson about the need for the amendment, the council voted to add language to the existing wellness center contract to allow Swenson to confer with Kraus-Anderson and approve the hiring of auxiliary professional personnel as needed for the project.

• Interviews for wellness center manager scheduled for Jan. 27.

• Special meeting scheduled for Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. to review Bolton and Menk preliminary engineering study. The council needs to hear the recommendations of engineer Phil Martin who conducted the preliminary engineering study of the South East Infrastructure Project. Martin will discuss sewer, water, storm sewer, sidewalks, truck routes, width of streets, size of water main and sewer, etc. After the council has heard Martin's presentation, it will set a date for a public hearing with area residents about the project. Construction is projected to begin in 2015.