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Wadena County Commission: Board shows support of hospital's USDA funds application

The Wadena County Highway Department closed 191st Ave., between County Road 9 and 260th Street last week due to excessive water flowing under the road collapsing the gravel roadway. Other roadways have been effected but are seeing some relief as waters seem to have peaked. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Tri-County Health Care recently requested support from area government agencies in their effort to apply for financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the purpose of constructing a new healthcare facility.

Wadena County Commissioners gave their full support to the application Tuesday with little discussion. The application seeks funds from the USDA Rural Development.

The application stated the following:

"We are required to provide evidence to Rural Development of significant community support for our proposed project. All local government units within the proposed project service area are being contacted to provide a Certificate of Support. Providing the Certificate of Support does not require financial support. The Certificate of Support should include sufficient information to determine that a proposed community facility will provide needed services to the community and will have no adverse impact on other community facilities providing similar services."

County coordinator Ryan Odden noted that Wadena County has no other hospitals in the county, so it was not impacting any other hospital within the county.

Commissioner Jim Hofer mentioned that applying for USDA funds was a good business decision on Tri-County Health Care's part. It was a similar decision that Lakewood Health System made when building their health complex in Staples. Hofer also asked whether any dollar amount was attached to the application. There was not, according to Odden.

In other board action, commissioners:

• Approved a 2019 AMC transportation funding resolution encouraging the Minnesota Legislature to pass and the governor sign a bill that brings adequate funding to Minnesota's statewide transportation system. Odden thought the resolution served as a reminder that there are certain expectations to maintain roads and with budget shortfalls, that expectation is hard to reach.

• Opened a public comment period for Wadena County ADA transition plan. Currently the draft Wadena County ADA Transition Plan is on the county website for review and public comment. As required, Wadena County has conducted a self-evaluation of its facilities within public rights-of-way and has developed this plan detailing how the organization will ensure that all of those facilities are accessible to all individuals. The public comment period will close May 1, 2019. Comments will be evaluated and a final plan will be prepared and brought to the county board for approval. Odden shared that the plan needs to be in place to maintain funding for ADA compliant work along county roadways. He shared that a frustrating part is that the rules are always changing. "Overall we are pretty compliant," Odden said. Commissioner Jon Kangas brought up his concern that the plan had rates that seemed lower than actual costs. His fear was that the costs could be far higher for the work.

• Approved a conditional use permit for Aaron and Brenda Simi, who were seeking to add a second family dwelling on a property less than 20 acres, south of Blueberry Lake. The planning commission approved the CUP on the condition that once the family member is no longer living on the property, the mobile home would be removed. No one spoke for or against the request for CUP.

• Approved a conditional use permit application for Randall and Jodi Becker for a sand and gravel extraction site in Redeye Township north of Sebeka off Hwy 71. The planning commission was in favor of the permit. One condition was that the landowner had to get signatures from the property owners as the site was going to be closer to a property line than is allowed. Those signatures were received. One correspondence was received from MnDOT, which showed no objections to the plan. No one else spoke for or against the project. Commissioner Kangas asked if these items already approved by the planning commission could just go on the consent agenda instead of going before the board as a resolution. Wadena County Planning and Zoning Administrator Deana Malone said it needs to be a resolution before the county board, even if the board typically agrees with the findings of the planning commission.

• Heard that the current restroom project remodel was in the drywall stage and should be complete by the end of April. Work was continuing on the lower level remodel as well. Odden noted that with the Sentence to Serve group not busy with other work, he was hoping to gain consent from commissioners for more work to continue, including more demolition. Commissioners supported getting as much work as they could from the STS crew before other projects came up.

• Approved of a resolution and entered into a joint powers agreement with the Port Authority of Saint Paul, allowing businesses in Wadena County to be a part of a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) energy efficiency program. Energy-saving measures pursued by the owners receive project financing and are repaid as a separate item on their property tax assessment for a set period. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing. Commissioner Jim Hofer voiced that the only concern was in dealing with the assessment, if a property owner exits the property. Hofer said that was a problem they would deal with if or when it happens.

• Approved a labor agreement between the law enforcement labor services and the county.

• Approved tabling discussion of a paralegal position until the April 23 meeting.

Road closures

As of Tuesday, April 2, three Wadena County roads were closed due to water on the road, including County Road 120, 119 and 118. County Road 130, which was also closed due to a failed culvert, was set to be open by the end of the day April 2.

County highway engineer Ryan Odden said the county was benefiting from a slow melt. He felt that by the end of next week, the other roads should be fully functional again as the water lowers back down.