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City owns building gutted by early March fire

In 2012, the city of Wadena spent $130,000 for property on the south edge of town that includes two commercial buildings and a home.

The structures are located in a 26 acre zone along Highway 71 where the Wadena Development Authority plans to develop a business park.

"Eventually, (the home) would have been torn down," WDA director Dean Uselman said. "We don't want a home in a business park."

A March 1 electrical fire destroyed much of the three-bedroom house, displacing the tenants, a single father and his two children. Now the home will be demolished sooner than expected and the city will collect insurance money.

"Fire's never a good thing," said Uselman, who is also the Wadena Fire Chief. "But as it turns out, it will be better for the development authority."

At its April meeting, the WDA will consider how to spend the insurance money.

"There's a lot of things that are being discussed," Uselman said.

One option, he said, is to use it to turn a nearby commercial building into a small business incubator. It could also be returned to the same revolving loan fund which was used to purchase the property.

The city's goal is to attract commercial businesses (plumbers, electricians, etc.) and retail, as well as assembly and light manufacturing to the business park. Wadena's available commercial space is limited and scattered in existing buildings throughout town, while this site will provide flexible options at a prime location along a major highway, Uselman said.

"There isn't a lot available in the city of Wadena," he said. "It's pretty much filled up."

If Highway 10 is widened to four lanes, affected businesses could move south.

"We wanted to have a place for them to relocate," Uselman said.

The WDA is currently wrapping up work on the business park plat. Once that's complete, the city can begin to pursue funding - development is expected to cost $950,000 - before building roads and installing utilities.

That could begin as early as 2015, but because of the $9.4 million comprehensive infrastructure project on the southeast side, it's likely to be pushed back, Uselman said. "I don't think we're going to try to juggle two projects at the same time."

Family recovers

Less than a month after losing their home and much of their belongings in the fire, Jim Carter and his two high-school-aged children have found a new place to live.

The family moved into a four-bedroom house in southwest Wadena on Friday.

Carter spent his tax return on brand new beds for the kids.

Friends and family have helped replace others items lost in the fire and have provided places for the family to stay over the past few weeks.

"People have been really helpful," Carter said.

He said he's still on the lookout for a couple more dressers and some kitchen supplies.

To donate to the family, contact Carter at (218) 402-0615.