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Wadena Board hears city's redevelopment proposal for tornado lots

Wadena commissioners heard a proposal from the city of Wadena at the April 15 board meeting that has been in the works for several months. The city wants to provide opportunities for people to build residential housing on the 29 lots in the southwest section of the city, left vacant by the June 2010 tornado.

The lots have not become tax-delinquent, but they are standing empty, and do not make an attractive neighborhood. Mayor Wayne Wolden and Wadena development authority (WDA) director Dean Uselman explained their vision for the lots: providing tax incentives for people to build residential housing during 2014, 2015 and 2016, that would be owner-occupied or residential rental property.

The city's property taxes for the next ten years would be abated (cancelled) on new residential structures with values of $75,000 or greater. Homeowners and apartment building owners would receive substantial tax savings if they decide to participate in this program.

The city of Wadena is asking Wadena County and Wadena-Deer Creek School District to participate by abating their taxes on new residential structures on the 29 lots as well.

Commissioners listened closely to the proposal and asked several questions. They applauded Wolden and Uselman for making the attempt to encourage people to build on the empty lots. Uselman told commissioners that about half the 29 lots are already for sale, and that others may be offered for sale soon. Prices are very reasonable, he said.

The board agreed to think about the proposal and reach a decision in the next few weeks. Wolden and Uselman will meet with the WDC school board this week.

Interim social services director Steve Reger and supervisor Amie Gendron appeared before the board to present several financial reports. They also told the board that the Oakridge Home in Wadena may be closing. County social services received a notice that the home will close on June 30 if agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Services cannot be reached for a way to continue operating the home.

The reasons for the home's closing are complex. Board members, Reger and Gendron agreed that every possible attempt should be made to continue operating the home, which serves sixteen adults with developmental and other disabilities.

In other business, the board:

• Heard an annual report from veterans' service officer Dave Anderson about his activities during 2013.

• Approved yet another change in the upper level office configuration plan of the courthouse.

• Approved the posting of an opening for a full-time jailer/dispatcher.

• Received a letter of concern from Thomastown Township Board regarding the county's economic development authority committee, which began meeting April 8. The township wanted someone appointed to the committee who was a farmer. Commissioner Jim Hofer responded by appointing a farmer to the committee from his commissioner district.

• Approved the hiring of Northern Reporting Service, Inc., to carry out background checks for social service director and county coordinator candidates.

• Approved the hiring of adjustors International to assist with closing out FEMA projects from the tornado.