More than 90 minutes were spent at the Dec. 2 Wadena County Board meeting by commissioners arguing over whether the transit director should have a four-year college degree or a two-year degree. The purported reason for the argument was the placement of the new position on the county's salary schedule. If the Transit Director were placed at Grade 57 which requires a four-year college degree, he or she would start at an annual salary at Step One of $51,916.
The Wadena County Board has received a draft summary of the costs to the county for cleaning up after the June 17, 2010 tornado, rebuilding county structures, and repairing the fairgrounds. The costs are nearly $3 million. At the Nov. 18 board meeting, County Engineer Ryan Odden, who has supervised all the cleanup and rebuilding operations, presented the summary and answered questions about it. The summary is only a draft at this point because FEMA has not acted on all the county's requests for reimbursement, and it is not known what the final dollar figures will be.
At the Nov. 12 county board meeting, County Engineer Ryan Odden told Wadena commissioners that he is almost ready to recruit a Friendly Rider Transit Director to serve the new combined Wadena County-Becker County Transit System. He is waiting for MNDOT to approve the Transit for the Future grant that he applied for recently. The new position of Friendly Rider Transit Director will report to the County Engineer at first, and then to a Joint Powers Board when one is formed in the near future.
At the Nov. 3 county board meeting, Wadena commissioners approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a new Verizon cell phone tower in Sec. 20, Wadena Township, south of the City of Wadena. The 190-foot tall tower will be placed on property belonging to Steven and Sandra Rentz. The tower and an equipment shelter near the base of the tower will be contained within a fenced compound. The tower will be set back 230 feet from the eastern property line and right of way for U.S.
The National Joint Powers Association, based in Staples, has awarded a grant to Wadena County to fund a Drug Agent position for one year, beginning in 2015. County Coordinator Curt Kreklau made the announcement at a special board meeting held on Oct. 28. The amount of $67,644.88 awarded to the county will pay the agent's salary, while $4,800 will be used for a public awareness campaign. The deputy will be assigned to the West Central Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force. Sheriff Carr explained to the board on Aug. 19 that "the purpose is to try to get drugs off the street, to be proactive.
A preliminary report prepared by Bolton & Menk, Inc., the City of Wadena's engineering firm, indicates that the localized flooding conditions at the county fairgrounds can be solved if the fairgrounds system is connected to the city's sewer system. The report was requested by the county through County Engineer Ryan Odden, who is supervising the efforts to figure out a way to stop the constant flooding of parts of the fairgrounds after rain events. At the Oct.
Commissioners learned on Oct. 13 that Wadena County Public Health has been awarded a $625,000 Chemical Health Awareness and Multi-drug Prevention (CHAMP) grant in a competitive process, as part of a coalition of agencies dedicated to preventing youth substance abuse. This grant continues the work of the previous grant. All together, the two grants will cover 10 years (2009 to 2019) Public Health Director Cindy Pederson made the announcement and explained that the grant period will be Sept. 30, 2014 to Sept. 29, 2019.
On the recommendation of County Engineer Ryan Odden, the Wadena County Board awarded the contract for the "Safe Routes to School" project to Central Specialties, Inc., of Alexandria. The county had requested bids twice for this project, but rejected the first round of bids because all of them were too high. The second round of bids produced just one bidder, Central Specialties, but the company's bid was reasonably related to the engineer's estimate for the project. The contract for $250,015 was approved at the Oct. 7 board meeting.
As required by Minnesota Statutes, the Wadena County Board of Commissioners voted to set a preliminary 2014 pay 2015 property tax levy on Sept. 23. The levy was set at $8,017,992 — which reflects an increase of $270,217 over the 2013 pay 2014 levy. This levy amount is preliminary, meaning it is not the final levy amount. The final levy amount will be set by Dec. 30. The final levy amount can be lower than, but not higher than, the preliminary levy. Commissioners worked hard to make the levy increase as small as possible.
After years of saying "no", Wadena commissioners said "yes" on Sept. 16 to a new look and functionality for the county's website. Both the current appearance of the website and its limited opportunities for users to get or give information have been roundly criticized in the last few years. At the Sept. 16 county board meeting, commissioners gave approval for CivicPlus to redesign and rebuild the county's website. CivicPlus is one of several companies that responded to the county's request for proposals earlier this year.