The Wadena Fire Department Relief Association’s request to increase their pension benefits was approved by Wadena City Council members during the regular council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11.

During the January 2020 Fire Relief meeting, members passed an increase to the relief from $2,805 per year of service to $3,200 to the retirement benefits that are available to all firefighters. Firefighters can begin drawing that pension once they are age 50 and after at least 10 years of service as a paid-on-call firefighter and the retiring member must separate from their paid-on-call duties.

After discussion all council members were in favor of the increase. The Fire Relief fund is currently funded at 115.1%. The increased annual pension amount will be taken from the Fire Relief fund and because that fund is fully funded at this time, there is not an added cost to the general fund -- no added cost to the city. If an unfunded liability does occur, it is amortized over a 10-year period to determine the amount the city will have to contribute to fully fund the plan. Relief members explained that the rise and fall of the fund is based on the stock market. In lean times, the group explained they move to more conservative stock options through their advisor. In those lean times, the city may need to contribute to the fund. Otherwise, the fund gets assistance through fundraising efforts and state aid.

In other actions, the board approved:

  • Authorizing the fifth amendment to the Water Tower Lease agreement between the city and New Cingular Wireless. The fifth amendment extends the terms of the lease and provides for modification of the rent. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the rent will be $35,000 per year with 2.5% escalation each year.
  • Purchase of a 2020 Dodge 1500 from Mike Motors in Ely in the amount of $24,875 plus tax. The truck is for the electric utility department. The 2020 Electric budget contains $34,000 for the purchase.
  • A professional services agreement with Short Elliott Hendrickson, Inc. to provide architectural, engineering and professional services for the 2020 Wadena Airport crack seal – runway, taxiway and apron project. This project will occur at the same time as the Crosswind Runway project. Funds are budgeted for both projects.
  • Entering into a proposal with Bolton & Menk to provide a wastewater capital improvement plan. The plan will help the city determine wants, needs, and any modifications needed to continue viable wastewater treatment operations over the next 20 years. The city budgeted an amount not to exceed $30,000. The cost of the engineering work came to $29,600. The project should get underway in June and a final report would be before the council in February 2021.
  • Hiring of Andrew Browne as the Fire Department’s secretary.
  • Hiring Matt Rousslang as the Fire Department’s 1st Assistant. Fire Chief Cody Yglesias said Rousslang got the recommendation due to his time on the department.
  • Hiring Samantha Galbrecht as a Part-time Desk Clerk at the Maslowski Wellness & Research Center.