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Wadena council notebook

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is planning a major overhaul to six-tenths of a mile of Highway 10 within Wadena, from 2nd Street Northeast to the fairgrounds. A MnDOT official explained the project basics to the Wadena City Council Aug. 5 and asked local officials to be involved with the planning process.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation is planning a major overhaul of Highway 10 in the heart of Wadena for 2018.

At the Aug. 5 Wadena City Council meeting, Jim Hallgren, MnDOT's central Minnesota project engineer, explained the need for the upgrade and asked city leaders to be a part of the planning process.

Initial plans call for an $8.5 million project to completely replace streets, curbs and gutters along a six-tenths of a mile stretch from the fairgrounds to Sunnybrook Road, Hallgren said.

"We're just not getting the longevity out of the pavement that we need to so we have to do a more substantial fix ..." he said. "We want feedback from the city and the community as to what this section needs to entail."

The state will cover pavement, curb and gutter replacement, Hallgren said, while the city would share in the cost of street lighting and signals. It would also pay for upgrades to sewers and other utilities, if they are included in the project.

Councilman Toby Pierce asked how the overhaul would affect businesses along the corridor.

"That's what we want to find out," Hallgren responded. "It's a discussion that we need to have with the community."

If the long-term goal is to fully convert the highway to four-lanes - Wadena is the only remaining two-lane stretch of Highway 10 - "we would need to acquire quite a bit of property," he said.

Councilman Don Niles noted the project's limited scope and asked what the council should do to get MnDOT interested in completing the full four-lane conversion.

"This would set us up for future expansion if and when that happens," Hallgren replied.

Phil Martin, Wadena's consulting city engineer, added: "You're probably biting off the most complex segment of that overall conversion to four-lane."

Flood fundraising

The Initiative Foundation, a Little Falls-based nonprofit organization, launched the Wadena Area Relief Fund last month ( to raise money for homeowners who suffered damage that insurance won't cover during the July flood.

At the Aug. 5 meeting, the council discussed the process of designating a local group to promote the fund and decide how to distribute the donations.

"Somebody needs to take this under their wing and promote this," said City Administration Brad Swenson, who estimated 80 to 100 basements were damaged in the flood.

As of Tuesday, just $105 had been raised. The Initiative Foundation has pledged to match, dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 of donations made before Aug. 18.

"Time is of the essence," Mayor Wayne Wolden said. "Every day we lose a little momentum."

Councilwoman Jeanette Baymler said Long Term Recovery, a group of volunteers that performed such work after the 2010 tornado, has been revived and renamed Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

"That's a great format that's already set up," Wolden said.

The council agreed to form a committee - Wolden, Swenson and Baymler - to approach Neighbors Helping Neighbors and see if the members are interested in getting involved, then consider how to move forward at the next council meeting.

In other business Aug. 5, the council:

• Approved a grant agreement with the Federal Railway Administration and MnDOT to improve and extend the K-Line rail spur in southeast Wadena. "(The project) will provide the industrial area in the city of Wadena with expanded and more efficient rail service that will be available for use by all businesses and industries in the local region wanting to locate on the spur," the agreement states. The federal government will fund nearly $1.5 million of the $2.1 million spur, while a MnDOT grant covers $550,000 and the city's share is $150,000. Wadena Development Director Dean Uselman said that after years of delays, construction could start this fall.

• Listened to a presentation about how the 2014 legislative session affected rural Minnesota. Amanda Duerr, a lobbyist for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, said although the organization rated the session as OK, "we need to fight to get our priorities recognized at the capitol." One highlight: The legislature approved a 2.1 percent increase in local government aid, increasing Wadena's allotment by about $26,000. "Better than a cut," Duerr said. "Hopefully, it will at least cover some minor costs."

• Agreed to be the fiscal agent if the Cyber Cafe is awarded a National Joint Powers Alliance grant. Due to budget cuts, the Wadena County Family Service Collaborative is no longer providing about $18,000 in annual funding for the downtown youth center. The Cyber is asking NJPA for an three to five year grant for an equivalent amount.

• Decided to install two stop signs at an uncontrolled intersection near the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center in southwest Wadena, as recommended by the police chief. The signs will be placed at the intersection of Aldrich Avenue and Fifth Street, across from one of two wellness center entrances. The council asked the public works department to have them up by the beginning of the school year in order to give people time to adjust before the facility's grand opening later in the fall.

• Accepted a $135,000 bid from Howard's Driveway of Menahga for milling and overlay projects in the city. Slated for improvements: 5th Street Southwest from Aldrich to Colfax avenues; the center 24 feet of Garfield Avenue Southwest between 1st and 3rd streets; the center 24 feet of Howard Avenue Southwest between Jefferson and 3rd streets; the Sunnybrook Park campground road; and the alley off 5th Street Southwest between Bryant and Colfax avenues.