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Members approve wellness center bids, advance TIF request

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Wadena City Council whisked through the agenda at its April 8 meeting, unanimously approving the final wellness center construction bids and advancing a tax increment financing (TIF) request for a new business.

Wellness center bids

The council approved the final three construction bid packages for the $12.4 million Maslowski Wellness and Research Center, which is scheduled to open in the fall.

Grazzini Brothers and Company of Eagan will complete the tile work for $84,200 - $20,000 over budget. At $11,433, Bloomington-based Eco Solutions’ bid for final cleaning was $12,000 under budget. The $6,940 bid from Century Fence Company of Forest Lake met budget expectations.

As he did at the previous meeting, City Administrator Brad Swenson advised against granting a more than $80,000 alternate bid that would have added floor-to-ceiling tile on plumbing walls and a four-foot wainscot on the rest of the walls.

“We do not have money in the budget for the alternate,” he said. “... I’m not one to spend money we don’t have. And I think it would be premature to spend the contingency money when we’re only halfway through the project.”

If there’s contingency money left over, Swenson said, it could be used for furniture and fixtures (bids on those items have yet to be considered) or put into a operating reserve.

“There’s plenty of places to spend the money if we have it when we get to that point.”

By consensus, the council decided not to add the additional tile.

Over at the construction site Monday, crews framed the lap pool, installed windows and continued mechanical and electrical work.

In the next couple of months, workers will complete the window and glass curtain wall installation, pour the remaining pools, begin installing metal panels and start laying the interior masonry walls.

The project is still on track to open in October, said Brandon Larkin, project superintendent for Kraus-Anderson Construction Company.

New business

Wadena Development Authority Director Dean Uselman presented a request for up to $140,000 in TIF money - essentially property tax breaks - from a developer who plans to open a 8,000 square foot retail store just north of Super One Foods in Wadena.

While city TIF committee members found the project met the requirements, “all feel that the TIF was estimated on the high end and could be half of what their projecting,” said Uselman, who serves on the committee with Swenson, Mayor Wayne Wolden and Council Member Jeanette Baymler. The final figure will be determined when the county assesses the finished property.

According to the worksheet the committee used to score the project, the retail store will provide fewer than 15 new full-time jobs with health insurance benefits. It will pay between $10 and $13 per hour. In its first fully assessed year, the project is expected to yield between $15,000 and $25,000 in property taxes.

Members voted to hire a financial consulting firm to draw up a TIF agreement and developer’s agreement before a required public hearing, which is set for May 13 during the next council meeting.

Wolden said the business may not bring a lot of jobs, but the additional traffic to the community and “the chance for peripheral expansion” make it a worthwhile project.

“The developer made it sound like if this was successful there could be a follow-up project after this,” Wolden said.  

TIF is increasingly becoming necessary to lure developers, he said. “It seems like we are sort of in that groove when it comes to development.”

In a Monday interview, Uselman said he spoke with the developer, who told him not to reveal the name of the new business.

Swenson said Wadena has never denied a TIF application that met the requirements.

Other action

Also April 8, the council:

  • Hired Nathan Warner as a new patrol officer. Currently working as a Norman County deputy sheriff, the 24-year-old is a Staples native. He will fill the position left vacant by Brandon Pearson, who was promoted to sergeant earlier this year. Warner will start April 24.   

  • Amended the city travel policy for the first time since 2008. A committee of department heads developed the changes, which include increasing the daily meal allowance from $40 to $50 and increasing the maximum amount that the city will pay in advance for lodging from $60 to $75 per night.

The city will now cover 80 percent of the mileage for city-related business trips in personal vehicles, while continuing to pay for 100 percent of the mileage in the city-owned van. Previously, it reimbursed mileage for one half of the trips in personal vehicles.

The council agreed the mileage reimbursement change would likely reduce the use of the van, so it decided to delay spending the $28,000 it had budgeted to replace the vehicle later this year. The money will return to the general fund balance.

  • Granted authority for Public Works Director Dan Kovar to seek bids for new sidewalks on the east side of BN Park. The Peterson Foundation donated $20,000 for the project, which will replace the blacktop sidewalks that criss-cross the park with concrete and add several north-south connecting paths.