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$350k in economic development funds coming for revamped Hwy 10 intersection to hospital

Read on for more on the Wadena County dispatch remodel, jail kitchen remodel, commissioner salaries and salaries of elected officials.

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County Road 92, 11th Street NW, 640th Ave, Wadena Line Road, whatever you like to call it, it's soon to get realigned with Hwy 10 for easier in and out access. Image courtesy Google Imagery
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Wadena County was awarded $350,000 in Transportation Economic Development (TED) Program funds on Dec. 8, 2021. The funds are to be used towards the realignment of Hwy 10 at the intersection of County Road 92, aka, 11th Street, a main entry point to the new Tri-County Health Care facility. In order to access these funds to help with the Highway 10 portion of this project, a cooperative agreement was made between Wadena County and the Minnesota Department of Transportation during the Dec. 21 County Board meeting.

With this relationship, funds can be accessed when construction work is to begin.

The TED program targets transportation infrastructure projects that create economic development opportunities and jobs through a collaboration between MnDOT, the Department of Economic Development, and local government and private sector partners.

The project is intended to improve sight distance, add turn lanes and support the regional nature of the new hospital and clinic, and may help attract 86 new jobs to the location, according to a MnDOT news release. Total project cost is $500,000. This project had one of the highest scores among those awarded, scoring 82 out of 100 for its economic development benefits and transportation benefits. The realignment is meant to create a better line of sight for those entering onto Hwy 10 and turn lanes allow for safer transitions.

View a full list of awarded projects at https://www.dot.state.mn.us/funding/ted/2021 .

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Dispatch remodel

The county board heard from Wadena County Sgt. Bryan Savaloja about a planned Wadena County dispatch center remodel. Based on quotes he received for furniture, flooring, new technology, paint and electrical work, the remodel would cost up to $56,172.19. The board approved spending up to that amount for work they said was needed. This project would be paid for from the ARPA funds coming to the county.

Next, the board approved spending up to $15,000 out of the non-levy building fund to pay for the jail kitchen remodel equipment. They gave the jail administrator the ability to purchase kitchen equipment as available for bid. They believed they could get significant savings by finding equipment up for auction online.

Public health hire

Sarah Ohrmundt was hired as the replacement Public Health nursing supervisor effective Jan. 24 at grade 56, step 8, $38.57 per hour. This role was being filled by Erica Keppers as she was serving as nursing supervisor and associate director of Public Health as director. Keppers said Ohrmundt was an external hire and brings 11 years experience in nursing, grant writing, management, a Masters in nursing, and exemplary references with her. All commissioners were in favor of the hire, though commissioner Jon Kangas was concerned that the starting wage was on the higher end of the scale for a new hire.

In other actions:

  • Solid waste haulers licenses were approved for AAA Roll-Off, G&T Sanitation, Hough Inc., Long Prairie Sanitation, Waste Management, Steve’s Sanitation, Osakis Silo, and Wadena Hide and Fur. Several licenses were contingent on receipt of payment.

  • Approved setting commissioner salaries at $25,000. This was not an increase, rather a more cut and dry way to more transparently show what the commissioners are actually making. Prior to this approval, in 2021, commissioners were paid a $16,915 base plus a per diem of $100 per meeting. The chair was also paid about $1,500 extra. Commissioners wanted to avoid the per diem amount as in some cases they could be attending so many meetings that they could make significant amounts of money and yet some meetings were only short Zoom meetings. Commissioners rationed that while a per diem could be incentive to attend meetings, they also believed that being elected to the position was reason enough to attend meetings, regardless of pay. Kreklau said he believed he’d be attending about 200 meetings this year. With $128,000 budgeted for commission salaries, the change in procedure does not result in an increase in what was budgeted.

  • Approved a 2% increase to elected and appointed 2022 salaries as follows: County Auditor/Treasurer Heather Olson $93,042; County Recorder Soledad Henriksen, $75,757; Sheriff Mike Carr $109,670. County Attorney Kyra Ladd's salary is set by a separate state formula among county judges and attorneys.

  • Fair amount of time was spent discussing County Engineer Darin Fellbaum’s salary increase as he was just hired on about two months ago. Commissioners eventually approved a 1% increase to his salary to bring it to $106,050.

  • Commissioner assignments were tabled for the next meeting.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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