Wadena city council members unanimously approved refunds meant to assist businesses and residents during the current pandemic.

The decision includes refunding 50% of the cost of 2021 liquor licenses to businesses that pay for the annual license. City administrator Janette Bower said the refund, which amounted to about $8,900, was significant but an amount that the city could afford to return. She noted that in conversations with other city’s this was becoming a standard decision in an effort to help struggling businesses.

“I know we can sustain the loss, these businesses may not be able to,” Bower said. Bower added that while many of these businesses received or were offered other assistance, “they need more assistance.”

Councilman Mark Lunde liked the idea, but asked where the refund comes from. Bower confirmed it’s from the general fund.

Electric customers to see return

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In another return of funding, council members approved a return of around $150,000 in costs to city of Wadena electric customers during the month of February.

This refund was based on a return of funds from Missouri River Energy to the city of Wadena. That return was based on reduced costs for providing power to the city due to a number of factors, some of them being the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, lower than expected expenses at their coal generation plant and the effects of energy conservation efforts.

Wadena Utilities Superintendent Dave Evans recommended that the city pass this refund on to customers by reducing the kilowatt per hour energy rate by $.025 for the month of February. An average residential customer with electric heat or a commercial customer would see approximately a $65 savings for the month of February. Evans said the city has done well this year in utility earnings and this is a good thing to do for the customers.

In other actions, the council approved:

Entering into an agreement with the State of Minnesota for the Wadena Access Road Project. This project was included in the bonding bill during the fifth special session and is a special appropriation to the City of Wadena in the amount of $1.3 million. The project involves the realignment of the road, which is now known as CSAH 92, formerly 11th St. Because this is a county road, Wadena County will complete the project. The City will serve as the fiscal host. County Coordinator Ryan Odden is preparing a cooperative agreement between Wadena County, Otter Tail County, Tri-County Health Care, and the City. The agreement stipulates project management/administration, project design/engineering, construction management, cost participation and future maintenance of the road. The agreement will be before the council at a future date.