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Wadena County Commission: Interested in attending a meeting?

The question of open meetings and informing the public about meetings was brought up under a discussion topic about adding a county calendar Tuesday, July 9 at the Wadena County Courthouse. County IT director Dave Hotchkiss showed off the addition of a calendar to the county website. On that calendar are the county commission board meetings. On the county website, you can also locate an agenda for those board meetings that are typically added to the site on the Thursday or Friday before the Tuesday meeting.

Commissioner Jon Kangas brought up his concern that the county does not have a listing of all the other committee meetings that commissioners are involved in. While there is not a quorum of commissioners at these meetings, they are still open to the public. He handed out information about open meeting laws for those in attendance to help inform others about the expectations.

Kangas stressed that he has concerns about the county falling victim to open meeting violations if they are not providing proper notice of meetings. He felt that the website calendar would be one good place for those meetings to be listed.

"I think for the public we should let them know," Kangas said. "Generally no one is going to show up. If they do have an interest they should be able to show up."

County attorney Kyra Ladd said that she too has had concerns about the county providing proper notice of meetings for many years. She felt that what was of utmost importance was making it easy for residents to find out when and where meetings are.

"The whole point is it should not be a scavenger hunt," Ladd said of finding meeting dates.

Commissioners considered ways that committee members could provide meeting dates to be included on the county website.

In other actions, the board:

• Approved the county schedule of fees following a half hour hearing. Regarding this item, the board reviewed a proposal to adjust rates for advertising on Friendly Rider busses. Public Transit director Randy Jahnke shared a rate comparison of Transit Alternatives as well as Becker County. County commissioners approved fee schedule as written including a cost for an unlimited 30 day pass, with one-way trips of 0-5 miles for $35; 6-10 miles at $70 and unlimited miles $100. Further discussion was had about advertising on the sides of the busses. Commissioners agreed that more discussion was needed on the advertising contract to determine who should be able to advertise and for how long.

• Heard from Jahnke again, who also explained that the state is implementing a two-year grant request instead of yearly request for Friendly Rider . Commissioners approved that change.

• Approved taking two permanent part-time jailer/dispatcher positions and replacing with one new full-time jailer/dispatcher. The change was not expected to have an impact on the budget and was approved by the personnel committee before coming to the commissioners. Sgt. Bryan Savaloja said the hire would help with understaffing during the day.

• Considered the costs associated with buying or leasing new tractors for summer use. The commissioners determined that more quotes were needed for different brands and different options for purchase or leasing.

Wensman building

Commissioners heard their options to update the Wensman building currently used for the Hope Center and cold storage. Previously a plan to resurface the exterior with an EFIS (exterior finish insulation system) surface was brought forward as well as adding multiple windows and door openings, but it was requested that an engineers opinion be obtained. Schik Engineering, LLC provided three options.

• Do nothing. Not recommended due to the Hope Center needing some type of finish around windows and doors and west wall continues to deteriorate.

• West wall would need masonry repairs and faced with treated plywood to provide a suitable surface for EFIS. West wall would only have the one existing doorway opening. EFIS on entire building.

• Hire Schik for wall replacement plan. Construct new west wall with openings in it. EFIS on entire building.

The opinions of the engineer consider that the west wall was at one point an interior wall and was repurposed as an exterior wall. To bring it to code compliance, significant restructuring was required. The engineers opinion was to remove the west wall and replace with a new structural steel wall.

Questions from commissioners ran the gamut about what could be done. Horsager said the big question was what they want the west wall to look like. Adding any windows or doors would mean a new wall. Hofer said the bigger picture is what is to come with this building in the next five to 10 years. Commissioners requested that this go back to discussions once again to determine the best route forward.

Closed meetings

Commissioners met in a closed meeting to develop or consider offers or counteroffers for the purchase or sale of real or personal property at 108 Bryant Ave SE, Wadena. The property is to the east of the Wadena County Human Services building and to the west of Rising Phoenix.

They also met in a closed meeting to discuss negotiation strategy for labor contracts.

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