County commission meetings have included plenty of unwanted silence with microphones dying, volume levels fluctuating and commissioners practically eating the microphone to be heard online. But with this week’s approval of new microphones, hopefully all statements can be heard- instead of “Is someone talking?” or “We can’t hear you.”

“Audio is cut off, not able to be understood, batteries fail, or is simply not transmitted with the current setup,” county IT director Dave Hotchkiss noted in the request submitted to commissioners.

Commissioners have been meeting in the city of Wadena council chambers due to the pandemic need of social distancing, with the public and any presenters and commissioners who choose on Zoom. The weekly problems have led to the county and city partnering on a microphone purchase.

The chambers will have seven table top microphones, three hanging microphones and eight speakers.

Both the county and city will fund the audio and video system. The city is also applying for a Sourcewell grant of approximately $7,500. The county and city would then split the required matching amount for approximately $3,730.75 each. The total cost is $14,923.23.

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Commissioner Bill Stearns questioned if this lower of two bids would result in a well functioning system. He has attended the meetings online since January. Hotchkiss noted the successful testing of the same microphones and mixer in the Deer Creek court space. Though the hanging microphones might still need the reminders for people to speak louder, he said. The new microphones will be powered through the wires connecting the system rather than batteries.

Both companies have installed microphones for court and conference rooms due to the pandemic. Integration AV Consultants, the recommended company, has also installed TVs in the county board room and helped with the Deer Creek court space.

Commissioner Jon Kangas said he wasn’t “sold on” the use of taxpayer dollars for the microphones as the county will also be investing in technology that remains with the city, though both are paying the same amount.

The city council has not yet approved the project.

In other action

The board also approved:

  • Transit department hires of Eileen Meyers, part-time driver, $13.80 per hour (Grade: 48, Step: 1); Douglas Wright, part-time driver, $13.80 per hour (Grade: 48, Step: 1); human services hire of Megan Graten, social worker, $24.41 per hour (Grade: 54, Step: 3).

  • Addendum No. 1 for adding the Watch Guard audio and video system data from the Wadena Police Department to the County’s server. The Joint Powers agreement with the Sheriff’s Office can be viewed on the county website.

  • Supporting three project sponsorships for the state Local Road Improvement Program for Orton township (320th Street), Verndale Eastside Drive and Verndale West Service Drive. Townships are required to have a county sponsor. The townships will pay for the project amount not awarded by the state. If the townships receive the funds, county coordinator Ryan Odden estimates 40 hours of county work for the projects.

  • A hydraulic tilt bed trailer purchase for $7,200. The parks department will use the trailer to transport slabwood in place of the flatbed trailer.

  • The sale of the park's flatbed trailer on MinnBid for a minimum bid of $500. The department has used the trailer for 25 years.

  • Municipal solid waste hauler licenses for AAA Roll-Off, G&T Sanitation, Hough Inc, Long Prairie Sanitation, Steve’s Sanitation and Wadena Hide & Fur. The approvals are dependent on needed information being submitted.

  • Adopting the Redeye Watershed Based Implementation Fund workplan and One Watershed, One Plan bylaws. The counties will not have additional funding requirements with the plan. The partnering counties are Wadena, Otter Tail, Becker and Todd. The plan includes a citizen advisory committee of volunteers, not appointed members.

  • A resolution opposing the implementation of California's low-emission vehicle and zero emission vehicle mandates in Wadena County.

The board also had a closed session on negotiation strategies for labor contracts and an IT infrastructure security report.

Public comment

There will be a public comment period from 9:30-10 a.m. on March 9 about the Wadena County Sheriff’s Department’s policies on body worn cameras and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Interested citizens can also speak to the county board during any regular board meeting at 9 a.m. on the first three Tuesdays of each month. People are allotted five minutes maximum either in-person or on Zoom.