High frequency radio waves emitted from a non-electric device hung in the basement of the Wadena County Jail could be the answer to moisture concerns.

While the concept seems to have commissioners scratching their heads, they are seeking out a proposal from RENODRY, a company that specializes in preserving concrete structures by removing what the company calls “rising damp.”

A company representative, Michael Clancy, visited the courthouse Tuesday, Dec. 3, and tested the moisture levels in the jail, where county staff have noticed peeling paint on the walls. Clancy said an acceptable moisture level would be under 70, while he noted high levels near 150. He said a reading of 200 would be like placing the hydrometer tool in a bucket of water.

He said the main problem with this moisture is that it brings with it salt. That salt, over time, degrades the concrete and compromises the strength of the foundation.

In his brief time at the courthouse, he suggested treatment for that portion of the courthouse would be a one-time cost around $7,000. Commission chairman Bill Stearns asked Clancy to return to the board with a proposal that they could vote on. Commissioner Sheldon Monson recommended that the proposal include a guarantee that Clancy mentioned earlier. He said the moisture problem would be removed in six months, but said it was guaranteed to be removed in three years. The technology included also had a 25 year warranty.

Stearns said he was very interested in finding out more after hearing about the device at an Association of Minnesota Counties conference. He said since then, he spoke with others that have experience with the device and heard it has been effective.

Clancy shared about officials who are using the device in their courthouse and sheriff’s building in Pipestone County, a similar setup to Wadena County. County officials there say the device seems to be working. The company originated in Australia and works with clients to preserve stone, clay or mortar type structures throughout Europe and more recently in the U.S.

According to the RENODRY website, “the dehydration system is a passive (not electrically connected) system of receiving and transmitting antennas. The heart of the system is a set of spiral antennas mounted inside a resonant case. The apparatus at its core is based on military communications technology that has shown proven results all around the world over the last 30 years.

“The system powers itself by harnessing RF (Radio Frequency) energy from the environment. In addition, it uses the Earth’s magnetic field, known as geomagnetic energy. This technology also utilizes recycled RF energy available from TV and radio broadcasts, Wi-Fi or mobile signals etc.

With the RENODRY in place, it will cause the water molecules inside the wall to release from the masonry by disrupting the electrostatic attraction between the water and masonry. Gravity can now push the water back down into the ground establishing masonry moisture equilibrium.”

The RENODRY device works without electricity or moving parts.
Photo courtesy RENODRY
The RENODRY device works without electricity or moving parts. Photo courtesy RENODRY

Commissioner Chuck Horsager said that he would be interested in the idea “as long as it’s not emitting some frequencies that cause other problems.”

The company website states that the product is environment-friendly and non-invasive.

In other actions board members approved

  • Janette Bower to serve as a Sourcewell Ex-Officio Chief Executive Officer.

  • A conditional use permit to allow the construction of a 259 foot Verizon cell tower on the Troy Meech property about 2 miles east of Nimrod off County Road 12. There was no opposition to the permit. There was support from those who were looking forward to having increased cell phone reception in the Nimrod area. Some comments even were shared that the tower would increase property value knowing that there would be improved cell phone reception in that area. Sheriff Mike Carr added that the tower should help the county provide better public safety to that area as it has been an issue in the past having such poor connectivity. Other service providers would be able to rent space on the tower, according to Rick Adams, a Verizon representative. The construction project should happen in summer of 2020.

Tax abatement policy

Commissioners also heard from Katie Heppner with The Economic Alliance and Wadena County Assessor Lee Brekke about a tax abatement policy. Discussion revolved around how much could be abated each year, which commissioners looked to be able to approve annually. After reviewing three options, which involved abatement to few or all, board chair Bill Stearns asked that the committee make some corrections and additions, seek input from the cities and come back again at the Dec. 17 meeting.

Brekke said the focus was to make the policy a more friendly tool to hopefully draw in growth and development into the county, including a decrease in the application fee. Based on state statute, the county could allow for abatement of 10% of the tax capacity, which worked out to about $900,000.

Heppner said that if the county should reach that amount, and has to turn people away, that was a very good problem to have.

“Boy would that be amazing if in a calendar year you were turning people away,” Heppner said.

The draft policy also allowed for a refund of a portion of the application fee, should the application be denied. That denial can also be appealed by the applicant.