Take a look around the Wadena area today compared to a year ago. Notice anything different?

It's easy to forget, but 2018 was loaded with demolition and construction projects. And the biggest project of all, reconstruction of Hwy 10, didn't even happen. Businesses blossomed, education centers were revamped and numerous buildings were moved around like a game of chess. Here's a look at some of the big news stories from the 2018 pages of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.

New construction

A new Freshwater Education District building broke ground July 16, as educators, administrators, contractors and community members gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Level IV special education facility.

The $6 million, 23,000-square-foot facility, is estimated to open summer 2019, and will serve about 50 students from 13 central Minnesota school districts and serve as Freshwater's central office.

While not new construction, a remodel of the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School got underway at the start of the summer vacation. The district started with $14 million to work with and ate through about $10 million upgrading heating, air conditioning, ventilation, removal of asbestos, new bathrooms, remodeled cafeteria and classrooms. The remainder of the work continues at the end of the school year in 2019 and involves exterior work to improve the bus parking and student access to the school.

A new housing development moved forward with the Roach Family taking the lead. The project got the go ahead in January of 2018 and is still under construction.

Wadena's M State campus saw a remodel completed in the summer of 2018. The remodel brought updates throughout the campus including a new library, nursing lab and entry area.

With the removal of the Wadena Light and Water building complete in the spring, the new building located off CSAH 4 was complete in the summer of 2018.

Business changes

2018 was a monumental one for business changes in town.

Businesses like Hockerts celebrated 65 years, Joey's PC made it 10 years and new businesses joined the ranks in downtown.

Brett Doebbeling took a leap of faith and bought the former Coast-to-Coast building downtown with plans to turn it into a brewery, Drastic Measures Brewing. That project is now nearly complete with a whole new look ready to draw folks in for a sip.

• Right next door the community welcomed in Nail Spa II.

• Across the street, Paulette Ohm purchased 1776 A Clothing Revolution and renamed it 1776 Clothing Company. She brought her own personal touch and a few new offerings to the retail store.

• Further down the line came Amber Brunell's Sweet Pickens, a unique custom furniture and decor store, which made the move from North Hwy 71 to a spot formerly filled by Theresa's Treasures.

• Long-time shoe seller Bob Tubandt retired from his post at Lyle's Shoes and new owners Lisa Baymler and Brian Koons took over in October.

• Two new businesses popped up in the lower level of Wadena Family Dental, Kiki's Kreations and Becky Berndt's Remember When Photos.

• In the former Cyber Cafe, All Around Divas Boutique found a place to shine, selling clothing and accessories to make any girl stand out.

• Heading out of town on Hwy 10, Union Creek Organic found a home in a former furniture business. The remodeled location gives them room for more product for their customers outside of the processing plant.

Also in 2018 the community said goodbye to An Open Book bookstore, Cyber Cafe and Theresa's Treasures consignment shop. Family Dollar announced in December it would be closing its store in January.

The loss of one of the gas stations was also felt as Orton's BP vacated the prime real estate at the intersection of Hwy 10 and 71. They had to clear out to make way for the Hwy 10 reconstruction. Verndale saw the closure of Wayne's Discount and Yesteryear's Cafe.

A portion of Jim Stoneman's business burned down in the most visible Wadena fire in 2018. While Stoneman reopened his propane and U-Haul services out of one building, his car wash, detailing and live bait businesses were destroyed in the blaze.

Super One Foods move and remodel

Super One Foods purchased the former Rising Phoenix building, which was formerly the Super One Foods store. The announcement of the grocery store's plans to remodel the space and move from their current location back to their former location went viral as people celebrated the idea of getting the grocery store back on the south side of the railroad tracks.

Hwy 10 demolition

MnDOT's plans to clear the way for the reconstruction of Hwy 10 got underway in the winter and spring of 2018 with the former Wadena Light and Water building and a former plumbing business/Star Tribune Depot being demolished. The former Fastenal building was purchased and moved overnight to a commercial lot on North Hwy 71. The Hanson's Tire building was destroyed to make way for the County State Aid Highway 4 realignment.

Structures identified by MnDOT to be removed in 2019 include Ferrellgas at the southwest corner of the intersection of 2nd Street and Hwy. 10; Orton's BP at the southeast corner of Hwy. 10 and Hwy. 71; Albers Realty at 561 Ash Ave. NE; and Hunke's Oil.

Hwy 10 reconstruction delayed

While plans were in place to complete the Hwy 10 project in 2019, news came in 2018 that the project would start in 2019 but not likely be complete until 2020.

Highway 10 through Wadena was originally constructed in 1948 and has been resurfaced four times. The road was last resurfaced in summer 2017 to preserve the roadway until the reconstruction project can begin.

The planned project will reconstruct Highway 10 between Birch Avenue and County Road 4 in Wadena.

2018 elections

No one filed to take on Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr Jr., County Attorney Kyra Ladd or County Recorder Soledad Hendrickson. Not surprisingly, the much discussed internal issues of the auditor/treasurer office lead to quite a competitive race. The end result was Heather Olson elected to oversee the offices, migrating from the accounting office of the county highway department. Former auditor/treasurer Judy Taves narrowly missed making it to the general election after being outvoted by Brian Hagen and Olson. Hagen lost the general election to Olson by about 15 percent of the vote.

No one filed against Wadena Mayor George Deiss, but Mark Lunde was set to come on board the Wadena City Council to fill the seat of Deb Wiese with no one else filing for the job.

An impressive eight candidates filed for three seats on the Wadena-Deer Creek School Board. Board members Jil Fiemeyer, Wayne Perkins and Ann Pate left the board while Ryan Damlo, Peter Hayes and Melissa Seelhammer were voted in.

New hires and retires

While election changes mean the entire Wadena city council is now made up of men, the new Wadena city administrator hired in 2018, Janette Bower, will no doubt do her best to keep them in order. Bower was hired on in May. Prior to that she was serving as the city administrator of Menahga since 2016. Prior to taking her Menahga position, she worked in a variety of city government positions for 16 years in the Alaskan communities of Palmer and Bethel. She took over for Brad Swenson who retired from the city administrator position after working for the city 43 years.

Not to be outdone, Joyce Boyne, senior bookkeeper at the Wadena-Deer Creek School announced plans to retire after 50 years on the job. She was joined by Vicky Schmitz, who also chose to retire from her accounting position at the school after 40 years.

Cops and courts

2018 was not without violence and crime. Antonio St. Marie was found guilty of first degree murder and kidnapping during a much publicized court case. In 2016 Antonio St. Marie murdered his estranged wife with a pistol in their Wadena apartment. He fled the scene of the crime and after an intense chase by local authorities, St. Marie veered into oncoming traffic, colliding head on with another vehicle. This was later discovered to be a failed suicide attempt. St. Marie survived and was tried at the Wadena County Courthouse in January 2018. He pleaded not guilty but his defense was not built around his innocence but why so many criminal offenses had been brought against him.

Human remains were discovered in New York Mills in May. Medical examiners identified the remains as 46-year-old Lynda Renae Meyer. Her remains were discovered by someone walking through the woods between the railroad tracks and West Centennial 84 Drive in New York Mills. Meyer was last seen July 23, 2016 after leaving a treatment facility. She was reported as a missing person.

William Lynn Hillman, 21, of Pine River brutally murdered two people in a rural Perham home. The victims were Denise Mcfadzen and her son, Dalton. Hillman had been recently released from a mental health facility and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was staying with the Mcfadzen family.