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Pro-Wadena passion comes out over waiver for brewery

The Wadena City Council heard from local investors of Drastic Measures Brewing at a recent city council meeting that they desire more flexibility from the city, creating a more welcoming environment for new business. Council members expressed they are ready to bend over backwards for businesses.

Jim Kraemer voiced his concerns of hearing for years from people that Wadena is not welcoming to new businesses.

“I believe we have an amazing quality of life here and that needs to be marketed,” Kraemer said. He said he currently volunteers to market Wadena and has been working with Brett Doebbeling, for two years to bring a microbrewery to Wadena. “People are excited about this brewery.”

His recent concern was that he and 15 other investors in the microbrewery want to pour money into the business and a $1,200 electric deposit to the city seemed a little harsh for local investors trying to bring new business to Wadena.

“I am not against protecting the city from dead-beat money that’s owed, but when I look at this project and we have 11 people that live in the community, none of which have a deposit on their electric and we’re all for responsible for that electric bill, and we have a CPA and we will have a million dollar investment in downtown -- to ask for an electric deposit is just salt in the wounds,” Kraemer said. “I want us to put that into the building.”

According to current policy, all new customers of City of Wadena utilities are required to make a deposit prior to receiving service. All required deposits shall be in the amount equal to the two highest months bills out of the last 12 months active service is available. The policy further states the utility may waive the requirement of deposit to any customer of the utility during the preceding two years, who has maintained a record of prompt utility payments during that time period. Any new customer can request a waiver with a letter of good credit from a previous utility from the preceding two years.

Considering that language, City Administrator Brad Swenson explained to council members that they can give a waiver or change the policy to not require any deposit. He also wanted to make it clear that it is not up to him to go against city policies, it is his job to uphold the policies of the city council.

Council member Deb Wiese spoke in support of the waiver saying that Kraemer’s outlook was the right direction for Wadena.

“I think it’s necessary for us to keep going ahead,” Wiese said.

Swenson cautioned the council instead of waiving the policy they should consider changing the policy. He added he is not against new business, he is against a steady stream of waivers, as that would be a sign that policy needs changing.

Curt Folkestad spoke saying that having new businesses come in weekly asking for waivers would be a tremendous thing to happen for Wadena.

Michael Craig at Ameriprise Financial shared, too, saying that Wadena needs to bend over backwards for its businesses. He also understood the importance of consistent policy.

“I’m just saying that building has been empty for a long time,” Craig said.

Mayor Deiss reinforced his belief in the council saying that they are pro-Wadena and pro-business.

“I don’t think anybody on this council is anti-business,” Deiss said. “If people are saying that Wadena is the worst city to deal with then I will personally take them outside and kick them with my steel-toed shoes, because this town is a good town.”

The board approved a motion from Wiese to grant the waiver. Council member Bruce Uselman was the only member opposed to the motion saying he is not anti-business but he thought they should look very seriously about how they approach waivers.

“I think we have to fully support any new business and existing businesses, but I have a problem when we adjust one policy for one business because I think we are inviting a lot of businesses to do the same thing,” Uselman said.

Wiese agreed but said making this waiver was a show of support to those looking to open a business in Wadena.

Mayor George Deiss expressed that concerns of waivers of this amount were to come before the council and he told Kraemer that had he followed policy, by offering up a letter of good credit by any of the investors of the microbrewery, that he could have avoided coming before the council and likely received a waiver for the deposit. Kraemer said had he been told that all he had to do was bring a letter of good credit he would have gladly.

Weiss asked Kraemer to bring a letter to put on file after the council approved the waiver.

In other actions the board approved:

  • A wellhead protection plan, which seeks to determine where drinking water comes from and identifies steps to protect the water.
  • An audit of the city’s finances. The report showed the audit was clean and financial statements were accurate and clearly presented. A representative of Eide Bailly spoke briefly of the audit sharing that for 2017. The audit showed the city’s liquor store was right on par for profit with other municipal liquor stores in the state.
  • A plan presented by Ben Keppers a Boy Scout seeking his Eagle Scout badge. Keppers presented the city council members with his plan to start a renovation project at Sunnybrook Park’s Birch Shelter. Keppers plans are to move and replace landscaping materials such as rocks and and dead trees with wood chips and plants. He also plans to do some painting and install a new sign. Keppers had some estimates available including costs of several hundred dollars. He will be raising funds for the work. The city council approved his plan to complete the work as well as noted they would cover additional costs, which would likely be minimal. They also indicated the city would assist Keppers in removal of some trees. Keppers said his plan still needs approval from the Eagle Scout Board to move forward. If that’s approved work would begin in July.
  • Carr’s Tree Service for stump grinding services. They were the only business to bid the project.
  • The purchase of storage, shop equipment and floor scrubber in the amount of about $32,000 for the new Electric Utility Building.
  • Tri-County Health Care to close off Deerwood Ave. between Hwy 71 and 1st St. NE July 17 from noon to 8 p.m. for the TCHC Block Party and duck drop.
  • The hiring of part-time lifeguards at the Wellness Center and hiring of part-time police officer Cole Yungbauer for the Wadena Police Department.
  • A MIF loan for Buckwheat Growers. The loan amount of $35,000. The loan will be secured by a purchase money security interest on the bagging equipment. The Todd-Wadena board approved a $66,000 loan over 10 years at 4.75 percent bank prime.
  • Bid for three fences to be installed around storm water ponds in SE Wadena.
  • The council also heard from resident Toby Pierce who noted that the city parks are looking fantastic.

“I’m proud of them all,” Pierce said.

  • Wadena Fire Chief Dean Uselman noted that the department received $2,000 from Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative to go towards a thermal imaging camera.
  • Council member Jessie Gibbs noted that there is discussion about updating and replacing trail signs in Blacks Grove Park.