Business is on the upswing in Wadena as was apparent at the latest regular Wadena City Council meeting. Licenses were approved, demolition and construction projects were underway and other prospective businesses were planning visits to town.
The council unanimously approved a liquor license to Yerijaneth Gonzales Tello, for a new restaurant, El Mariachi, an authentic Mexican Restaurant. The business opened the doors to the remodeled restaurant Saturday, Aug. 18, without alcohol until the state license is approved. The restaurant is at the site of the former Los Jalapenos, west of Wadena on Hwy 10. A required criminal and financial background check was completed by Wadena Police Chief Naomi Plautz and found there was no criminal or financial information that would cause the application to be denied.
The council also unanimously approved a massage license application submitted by Emily Canning Williams. Wadena Police Chief Plautz conducted the background investigation for business license applications and found that Ms. Williams has a gross misdemeanor crime conviction. Minnesota Statutes state that in order for a criminal conviction to disqualify a person from business licensure, the crime for which the applicant was convicted must directly relate to the occupation for which the license is sought.
After careful scrutiny by the city administrator and city attorney, it was recommended the license be approved because the convicted crime does not substantially directly relate to massage therapy services, according to city administrator Janette Bower.
Plautz said the city recently adopted city code that requires background checks on applicants for any and all business licenses that the city would issue a license for, this also applies to employees applicants, both full and part time.
Wadena Development Authority director Dean Uselman noted that two downtown businesses are undergoing remodeling including the former True Value building, soon to be Drastic Measures Brewing and the former Rising Phoenix building, soon to be Super One Foods new digs.
He noted that construction of the Freshwater Education District's new building is moving along, with block footings and foundations going in last week.
He added that Mercury Mosaics is planning another site visit to look over a city building. Mercury Mosaics is a handmade tile producer currently creating tile in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District. Uselman would be working with them to put together a possible financing package.
In other actions:
• The council unanimously approved an addendum to the school resource officer contract. The addition included: "All references in the Contract to the party contracting on behalf of Minnesota State College shall be deemed for all purposes to be references to the State of Minnesota, acting through its Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, on behalf of Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Wadena, Minnesota (the "College").
• The council unanimously approved moving Aaron Schiller from part-time employment status to full-time at the Wadena Police Department effective Sept. 2. He will take Nick Grabe's position, who was hired as the new School Resource Officer.
• Authorized the closure of Franklin Ave. SE for the St. Ann's Family Festival on Sunday, Sept.16.
• Approved the hiring of Lucas Hinojos and Nathaniel Burckhard as part-time lifeguards for the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center.
• Took no action on a request from Michael Sartori who requested a $600 payment for work completed at the Wadena softball complex. According to public works director Dan Kovar, Sartori initially indicated he planned to volunteer his time to improve the softball fields for a growing use by men's league softball teams. In an email from Sartori, he indicates he used his own tractor and grader to level and smooth batter box holes, used his atv and boom sprayer to spray all four infields, along fence lines and around building for weeds, used his weed whip to trim around fences and buildings, built a nail drag for the infield, bought a drag mat, picked rock, and dragged the infield and marked lines before each league night. He would also like to add a couple inches of agri-lime to the fields following the season, which goes through August.
"Before I started I heard a lot of complaints about the conditions of the softball complex," Sartori wrote. "Now I'm hearing a lot of compliments about how good it's looking since men's league has started."
Kovar said he could not recommend approving paying Sartori for the work as he never told Sartori that he would be paid for his volunteering. The fields did not get as much attention from public works because they were not as heavily used in the past as they have been this year, Kovar said.
Council members agreed city work needs to be budgeted for, that volunteers can not be paid to do work that hasn't been budgeted for. Councilwoman Deb Wiese indicated that as this area is seeing greater use, perhaps the city should plan to devote more time to area. Kovar noted that the city is in a better position to keep up the fields moving forward.
Councilman Bruce Uselman said that paying people to do the work of the city is not how they do business, however he commended Sartori for the impressive effort he has put into the fields. Sartori was not present.
• Approved the purchase of two trucks for public works with money that was set aside for the purchase last year. Kovar went through state contracts from Nelson Auto. He recommended purchase of 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 ($25,647.94) and a 2019 Ford F-550- with a 10-foot Western plow ($69,089.62). This cost was about $4,000 over what was budgeted, however, Kovar noted two trucks, a 1998 2x4 Dodge and 2000 Ford F-350, that will be sold that should bring in more than that amount.
• Approved the purchase of a storage tank mixing pump with electric pump at a cost of $9,940. While this purchase was planned for 2019, leftover money after digester cleaning, allowed those funds to go for this new pump this year.
• Approved purchase of two replacement pumps for the pool lift station from Minnesota Pump Works at a cost of $17,052.38.
• Heard from resident Kent Scheer and his hope that the city would consider plans to keep portions of the right of way free of development in order to allow for a open view of the downtown from Hwy 10, as this was a recommendation from the Governor's Design Team in 1990. He hoped the council would take action to set up a subcommittee to look into the idea. This topic also brought that the city should be developing plans for lighting features and possible banners for the reconstructed Hwy 10, when it's reconstructed.
• Heard from resident Toby Pierce about his concerns for lighting of a sign at Traveler's Park. He wondered how difficult it would be to get electricity to the site. Electric and water supt. Dave Evans said it's not difficult. Mayor George Deiss said the city is addressing the issue. Pierce also recommended the city take a look at revamping the city entrance signs.
"It says Wadena, it doesn't say 'Welcome to Wadena,'" Pierce said. "I'm saying review the whole thing. Maybe it's time to do something different. I hate to bring up Staples, but they did a very nice job on (Hwy) 10 ... it probably cost some money."
Mayor George Deiss said the current signs cost some money too and probably were not planned out as well as they should have been.
"Please take a look at those entrance signs," Pierce said. "Put it in the budget for next year." He indicated that the trees around the entrance signs have also been hurt by deer damage. He facetiously recommended Kovar might sit out there to scare away the deer. Kovar suggested they could take turns.
• Kovar reported the Vince Brown Memorial was recently refurbished in Sunnybrook Park. The monument to the man was was approved for construction in 1986, according to a previous article in the Pioneer Journal.