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Wadena County Commission: Clarification needed on drainage near fairgrounds

Union Creek flows through a culvert Monday headed for Whisky Creek on the edge of Sunnybrook Park in Wadena. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Discussions have been happening for years to come up with a plan for the reconstruction of Hwy 10 through Wadena, and days to make changes to that plan are dwindling.

But city and county officials believe that changes must still be made to address drainage and utility projects they hope will be woven into MnDOT's planned reconstruction.

The big questions that were still unanswered after a meeting with MnDOT project manager Claudia Dumont July 12 were how the project will incorporate storm water drainage possibly from the Wadena County Fairgrounds to Union Creek, on the east side of Wadena; and what costs are involved with environmental cleanup of water from the reconstruction area as well as costs for drainage options.

The city of Wadena was granted $5 million in the latest bonding bill to pay for those projects, yet exactly how much the projects will cost are still unknown. Wadena County Coordinator Ryan Odden brought up other questions about whether they could upsize the storm sewer and what other costs may be involved.

To try to get answers to those questions, county commissioners unanimously approved three resolutions Tuesday, July 17.

• First, the commissioners approved allowing Odden to request a proposal from the City of Wadena engineering firm Bolton and Menk for the cost to design and inspect the environmental cleanup within the Trunk Highway 10 corridor including groundwater decontamination, soil decontamination and the removals of abandoned utilities.

• Second, commissioners approved having Odden request a proposal from the city's engineering firm for the cost to design a storm sewer system from the Wadena County Fairgrounds to Whiskey Creek that would be located within the Trunk Highway 10 corridor.

• Third, commissioners approved a temporary easement of property at the Wadena County Fairgrounds to allow MnDOT to construct ADA compliant sidewalks to the property.

Commissioner Bill Stearns noted that by approving these proposals they were getting the ball rolling to make these changes happen. Odden noted that MnDOT wants to have their plans finalized in October to accept bids in December and construct in spring 2019.

"They are firm on 2019," Odden said of MnDOT's schedule. "It's very much on track, but that $5 million has added a wrinkle that we are trying to work through."

"We want all headaches dealt with now, "Odden said. "We're trying to maximize that $5 million for the city and for county interests."

Odden was invited to another meeting Aug. 6 to talk with other MnDOT staff that will make determinations of what the $5 million is eligible for.

"It only makes sense to get it rolling," commissioner Dave Hillukka said. "It a little bit forces the state's hand."

Odden later shared that the drainage issue at the fairgrounds has been an ongoing problem since before his time. During times of heavy rainfalls the southern edge of the fairgrounds sees standing water that the current culvert cannot keep up with. In most cases this wouldn't be an issue, but there is a strong desire to keep the fair dry especially during the fair.

"It's time to fix the problem," Odden said.

Position wage increase requested

County attorney Kyra Ladd had concerns of filling the position of assistant county attorney. After losing one potential person for the position to Becker County who was paying $15,000 more annually, Ladd went to the board to request a step increase to the starting wage to be more competitive. She believed that with that step increase another hire may be willing to take the job.

The job has been vacant since February, Ladd said, and it would likely be open for six months before filling. The position was listed as a grade 57, step 7 and commissioners approved moving that to step 8.

Ladd noted that not having the position filled has been difficult as she has been working "16-hour days."

Clarifying position changes

The commissioners approved status changes largely in the Human Services Department.

Commissioners were clear that there has only been one addition to staffing this year, a new child protection worker in Human Services. Commissioners noted that a printout provided to them in their packets shows the replacements are labeled as "new." However, they wanted it to be clear in the future that these are not new positions being added, rather new employees to an existing position. Human resources director Curt Kreklau explained that he can change the language to make that more clear.

Those staffing changes include eight changes in Human Services staffing, including eligibility worker, case aide position, social workers, lead social worker, maintenance worker, social worker trainee and office support specialist. Other changes included three temporary election employees, a community health specialist, appraiser, casual jailer/dispatcher, engineering intern and a part-time dispatcher.

Does that road need restriping?

County coordinator Ryan Odden recommended the low bid of $267,541.19 from Traffic Marking Service Inc. to do the second half of a striping project in the county. The board approved that amount. Odden explained that it may look odd to see some roads getting striped as the stripes may appear in good condition. Odden said roads being restriped have been selected because the stripes have low visibility in low light or wet conditions. The new striping has more reflective properties.

Historical society sees growth

Wadena County Historical Society director Lina Belar shared with commissioners about upcoming activities. Belar has been with the historical society for four years.

Belar said the WCHS secured a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to conduct oral histories of women in politics. They plan to conduct 20 interviews by the end of the year. Another grant helped them do an assessment to potentially get Wadena's downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Belar noted that last year saw the retirement of long-time board member John Crandall as well as the death of Elaine Schmitz, an active member and representative of England Prairie Pioneer Association. Belar plans to bring a series of lectures, education programs, a musical program that traces the history of jazz in America and a program by a contemporary dance troupe also providing school workshops/

Commissioner Chuck Horsager noted that visitors to the historic buildings at the county fair has grown in the last three years.

Belar noted that her request for funding from the county would be the same as last year. She hoped to be able to continue the same funding yet continue to grow in what they are able to provide.