The annual statutorily required public hearing on the local option sales tax attracted only 9 people when it was held at the Wadena County Courthouse Monday night, Aug. 11. All five commissioners attended the hearing to answer questions from the public and hear positive and negative feedback about the local option half-percent sales tax, in effect in Wadena County for the first time in 2014.
Wadena commissioners are considering hiring a professional auctioneer to conduct the Sept. 6 tax-forfeited land sale at the courthouse. More than 90 parcels of land are slated to be up for sale that day. The parcels include city lots, 40-acre plots, 80-acre plots and many more. Many of the parcels are good hunting and recreational land. Quite a few have lake or river frontage. Others have timber resources. Generally, a tax-forfeited land sale is conducted by a county's auditor/treasurer.
The July 11 rain event left portions of the county fairgrounds under water once again. During the past several years, Wadena commissioners have struggled to find methods of draining the water away from the fairgrounds. The county has installed rain gardens, brought in tons of dirt to raise the level of parts of the property, put in drain tile, regraded the roads in the fairgrounds and installed larger culverts.
After hearing about continued misuse of the county's recycling containers by vandals, the Wadena County Board decided on July 22 to fight back with surveillance. Solid Waste Director Mike Hanan and Transfer Center Supervisor Tammy Ehrmantraut appeared before the board to describe the continuing problem of garbage and inappropriate items being dumped into the county's recycling containers located at city and township sites.
At the July 24 work session, commissioners reacted with skepticism to County Coordinator Curt Kreklau's attempt to present a plan for replacing the county's 45-year-old heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment. Kreklau worked with the Minnesota Dept of Commerce to begin development of a Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) for the county. This program encourages cities and counties to work with qualified energy services contractors to identify ways to save utility costs by replacing outdated HVAC equipment through a special financing program.
After four months of negotiation, there is still no agreement on the terms of the lease that MnDOT and Wadena County will eventually sign for the newly remodeled County Transit Facility next to the Highway Department. The building, formerly used as a retail vehicle repair shop, has been extensively remodeled by Sentenced to Service (STS) workers to serve as a bus garage, bus maintenance facility, office, and dispatch center for the Friendly Rider Transit Service, operated by Wadena County and largely funded by MnDOT.
By a 3 to 2 vote, the Wadena County Board approved a plan to offer 10-year tax abatements to owners who build residential housing on any of 29 lots in southwest Wadena, beginning this year and continuing until Dec. 31, 2016. The plan was proposed by City of Wadena officials last winter, and has been working its way through the legal processes required for such an endeavor.
Wadena County commissioners had their first discussion July 8 regarding the budget they must set for 2015. A preliminary budget and levy calculation must be completed and sent to the State of Minnesota by Sept. 15. Commissioners were in general agreement that county department heads should aim for a zero-increase budget once again, as they have been asked to do for the last several years. Zero-increase is difficult to do, however, since the county agreed to three-year labor contracts with its bargaining units that call for a 2 percent wage increase each year.
After more than 10 years of discussing, delaying, getting architect plans, rejecting those plans, hemming, hawing, etc., on June 10 the Wadena County board finally approved a plan to remodel county courtrooms and bring them up to current Minnesota court standards. The plan, fashioned by BKV Group Architect Bruce Schwartzman of Minneapolis, is a scaled-down version of the original plan.
At the June 3 county board meeting, Wadena commissioners voted to accept a quote from Herzog Roofing of Detroit Lakes to replace the failing roof on the Human Services building, located at 124 1st St. SE in Wadena. The roof will be a fully adhered system, and includes new metal flashing.