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'Gateway to the North'

A new digital directory to promote Wadena is up and running.

Mark Hanson, Director of West Central Economic Development Alliance, came before the board Sept. 26 to inform them of the progress made on the new website, GatewaytotheNorthTour.com. The directory has an interactive map in which visitors can click on and learn more about area businesses, parks, city offices and school information. The main idea behind the directory is to promote economic growth in Wadena and surrounding areas. There is also a guided tour of Menahga, as well as information about the Verndale, Sebeka, Staples and Aldrich communities.

Hanson showed commissioners the information packet which is also being used to pitch enhanced listings. County and city offices, parks and trails along with businesses have a "white page" listing for free, with 365 days of advertising at no cost to them. For $150 per year, businesses can have additional information on their pages, such as a business description, business address with navigation and routes via Google, a link to their website, two photos of the business and a link to their Facebook page.

The premium listing sells for $300 per year and includes the business logo on the map, the business description, four full-color photos, four hyperlinks and two social media links, one 360 degree panorama of the business, two PDF attachments and one 30-second video.

The website was made possible through WCEDA partnership with several organizations, including Region 5 "The Good life," Wadena County, M State, Wadena-Deer Creek School, the Wadena Chamber of Commerce, Menahga C&C, West Central Telephone Association, Tri-County Health Care and the Employment Resource Center.

Hanson said he has full analytics on the website to see how many clicks it is getting, how many people are visiting the page and for how long, etc.

He gave commissioners cards with a QR code, which can be scanned by smartphones to direct traffic to the website.

Childcare options drop

Hanson also reported on the Wadena area childcare supply and demand gap. Analysis, done by First Children's Finance, shows that in Wadena County, there are 691 children under the age of six needing childcare. There is an expected child care capacity of 350 slots, creating a gap of 341 children without child care. In the Wadena area, which includes the Menahga, Staples/Motley, Bertha-Hewitt, Wadena-Deer Creek, Sebeka and Verndale School District areas, there is an adjusted total of 1,536 children under the age of six that need child care, while there is an expected child care capacity of 560 slots, creating a child care gap of 976 children without child care. Hanson said WCEDA is trying to address the gap by working with Mahube-OTWA to create a plan to recruit family child care providers and possibly partner with businesses to attract more employees.

Fair board requests help with racetrack construction

The Wadena County Fairboard requested funding from commissioners for the construction of a racetrack at the fairgrounds. The fair board has decided to do a series of 10 Enduro races next spring. Jason Miller of the highway department relayed the request. There was talk of cutting the road and adding a culvert to help with drainage, a constant issue at the fairgrounds. Ryan Odden, County Engineer, said that the raingardens put in in the past have shown to not solve the drainage problems. The cost of a culvert would be about $2,900, Odden said.

The commissioners approved funds of $3,400 from the non-levy building fund to go toward the road construction, but tabled any decision on funding of the racetrack until next month, based on Miller's concerns about completion of all road projects before freeze-up.

"Roads take priority over the racetrack," Commissioner Dave Hillukka said.

Preliminary 2018 budget approved

Heather Olson, Highway Department Accountant, presented the 2018 preliminary budget to the board. The total preliminary budget for 2018 is $8,850,381, a slight increase of 2.92 percent from 2017's budget of $8,599,165. Commissioners approved the preliminary budget with little discussion, noting only that they were pleased the numbers were fairly consistent. The 2018 budget will be finalized at a later date.

In other news, the board:

• Approved the hiring of Sara Carpenter for the Records Management Civil Process position with the Wadena County Sheriff's Office, effective Oct. 2.

• Approved a liquor license for the Hville Op, Inc.

• Discussed the cleaning contract for the courthouse, which included getting bids for cleaning services for the Human Services building. No decision was made.

• Approved the health insurance proposal from PEIP, which will make health insurance more affordable for county employees.

• Approve the Wadena County Employer Benefit contribution for 2018.

• Heard an update from Odden on the grievance against auditor/treasurer Judy Taves. Odden and Diane Ebert, attorney for the county, met with Taves and her husband Harry Sept. 22. Odden reported that the meeting was "cordial" and that Taves has agreed to sign all documents requiring her signature to proceed with county business. Tave requested her laptop, which she had left at her office in the courthouse and a copy of the allegations against her. She also requested that any decision about the relocation of her office be held off until a meeting with her attorney and the county attorney could be held. That meeting was scheduled for Sept. 28.

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