Commissioners highlight county needs in planning session
The ideas ranged from hosting a board meeting in the Menahga area, consolidating county departments and how additional dwelling units could benefit the county’s economy.
Wadena County commissioners had plenty of ideas ready to discuss in a county strategic planning meeting on July 27. The ideas ranged from hosting a board meeting in the Menahga area, consolidating county departments and how additional dwelling units could benefit the county’s economy.
“The need for the county to do it’s part to be as efficient as possible and for commissioners to consider all ideas to grow and be efficient, ideas from commissioners, department heads, previous studies and committees and employees should be welcome,” said commissioner Murlyn Kreklau. He also plans to ask residents for ideas.
Board meeting locations
Kreklau suggested hosting occasional board meetings in the northern portion of the county, such as Menahga. The idea is to have more constituents involved. The issue is technology and department heads possibly not being as easily accessible at the meetings.
Commissioners were favorable to the idea.
Commissioners again raised the question of combining the Human Services and Public Health departments. The possible cost savings is one piece of information they hope to learn more about.
Commissioner Sheldon Monson also highlighted the county’s positive partnerships on community corrections, a public health board and the juvenile center with other counties.
The commissioners will discuss the topic at a future board meeting with information on the pros and cons. A date is not planned.
While no specific services were discussed, commissioners want to find out which services are required by the state and which are optional. County governments , as formed by the state, have required services with certain amounts paid for by the state and federal governments, according to commissioner Bill Stearns. All commissioners said the hope is to help with the low income and high property taxes in the county.
“We can’t sustain the way we’re spending,” Weyer said. “Our pie isn’t that big. … We can’t continue to dig into our taxpayers, asking for increases that some of them frankly can’t afford.”
When asked about reducing the levy next year, county auditor-treasurer Heather Olson said it was an option that pushes the issue down the road.
“The services and costs haven’t magically disappeared so unless you find somewhere to cut something we’re spending on, you’re not solving the problem,” Olson said.
Kreklau and Monson also highlighted services that are beneficial to the community while being “budget neutral,” such as Friendly Rider.
Accessory dwelling units
The option of adding accessory dwelling units on properties was highlighted as a county benefit.
Both commissioners and the planning and zoning commission discussed the topic in April . Planning and zoning director Deana Malone said though there are requirements, none of the permits have been denied. Kangas hopes the process can be easier.
The units could increase the county’s tax base as well as financial options for property owners, as Kangas and Kreklau said. The units could help with the housing needs in the area as well and offer a well-priced option outside of apartments. Stearns said there are also people who want to live in the country without close neighbors.
Weyer will return the discussion to the planning and zoning committee before bringing a proposal to the board.
Highway department shops
Commissioners discussed combining highway maintenance shops or moving items to a new location. The shops are in Menahga, Nimrod, Sebeka and Verndale. A centralized location in Bluegrass was discussed many years ago.
As one of the benefits to the different locations, plows are available throughout the county. The buildings themselves, however, are old and not sized for the department’s different vehicles and equipment.
County engineer Ryan Odden will present ideas on the effectiveness of the current shops or where another shop could be within 60 days.
“I feel we’ve got many things that are going well in our county but it comes down to yes our property tax on each individual parcel is dramatically higher than the adjoining counties, and you either got to find additional revenue or you’re going to have to cut services. And what services are you going to cut?” Monson said.
Commissioners hope to have more planning sessions on a regular basis.