Wadena City Council members voted in favor of starting some initial groundwork before that ground freezes for the Tri-County Health Care utility extension project during their Tuesday, Sept. 8 regular meeting.

The board unanimously entered into a professional services proposal with Bolton & Menk for the project at a cost of about $46,400. The agreed upon proposal includes just the work that needs to be completed before the ground freezes. That’s a smaller sum compared to the more full proposal of $144,500, which would have included all the work to make the site ready for construction in 2021.

The cost would be reimbursable if the city is awarded federal stimulus dollars aimed at projects like this, which Wadena City Administrator Janette Bower believes is a possibility. It would also be reimbursable through a special assessment on the developer should the project go ahead as planned, which TCHC President and CEO Joel Beiswenger repeatedly ensured was a “not if, but when” scenario. The risk on the city is that if the project does not move forward, the cost is on the city -- until a development does occur.

Council members were most comfortable moving ahead with the smaller project with the hope that they would still see reimbursement. Council member Jessie GIbbs said his concern was whether they could afford to cover this cost at this time considering the current economic situation. Councilman Mark Lunde made the motion to move ahead with the first two items in the proposal -- survey and wetland services, and geotechnical investigation -- at a cost of $46,400. A large part of the other cost is the preliminary engineering, coming in at $98,100.

This proposal was postponed from the July council meeting as council members sought more information. Beiswenger updated the council on the hospital’s work to restart the new health care facility project. One area of focus involves securing funding for the project with the USDA. That funding may not come through until late November, when the political climate becomes a little more clear.

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“That’s our reality. We of course want to be cautious with our spending,” Beiswenger said. He expressed his appreciation to the city for their willingness to proceed with this early work. The hospital project could still move ahead on a schedule that could include ground work starting summer 2021.

Beiswenger also mentioned TCHC previously had an appraisal done, but is two weeks into a likely two month reappraisal process. The first appraisal was a roughly 10-month process.

In other actions, the council approved:

  • Hiring John Heppner as a part-time lifeguard at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center.

  • Adopting the preliminary 2021 tax levy.

  • Authorizing the 2021 Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority tax levy of .0144% of taxable market value of property in the city of Wadena.

  • Authorizing the 2021 Wadena Development Authority Mandatory tax levy of 0.01813% of the estimated market value of property in the city of Wadena for collection in the year 2021.

  • Authorizing the 2021 Wadena Development Authority discretionary tax levy in the amount of 0.00282% of the estimated market value of property in the city of Wadena for collection in the year 2021.

  • The CAREs Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) expenditures and authorizing the applicable transfers. From July 11 to August 31, the expenditures added up to $110,548.60. A large chunk of that expense, $100,000, was used for small business assistance.The remaining was for telework capabilities, public health expenses and other uncategorized expenses. The city received a total of $312,662 in CARES Act funds for applicable expenses. After the first and second round of expenses, the city has $70,364.26 remaining.

  • Entering into a professional services agreement with Bolton & Menk for the Highway 71 Railway Quiet Zone Crossing Improvements Project.

  • Authorizing purchase of a Case model 521 G Wheel Loader from Titan Machinery at a cost of $145,206. The purchase includes the wheel loader, a 2-yard dirt bucket, 4-yard snow bucket, 2-yard clam bucket, pallet forks, and 16-foot snow pusher. This item has been budgeted for as money has been set aside for the last three years. The expense includes trading in the city’s 2003 wheel loader with a $28,740 value.

  • Authorizing purchasing of a Salt Dogg Unit from Crysteel Truck Equipment at a cost of $7,659.65. The city will sell their old model online.

  • Authorizing a paved driveway from Southbrook Drive to the undeveloped section of Park Ave SW, at the expense of the property owner Jolene Johannes. Future expenses would also be on the property owner if the avenue is developed or utility work is done that damages the driveway.

  • Authorizing an amendment to the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center Independent Trainer Access and Fee Collection Agreement. Trainers and instructors can now maintain a free single membership if they maintain a minimum of four fitness classes per month, while averaging no less than three guests per class; and achieve a minimum of one new paid client session per month.