The city of Wadena is applying for funding to beautify the entryway to the city’s downtown at the junction of Hwy 10 and 71.

In the process of widening the highway in 2019, MnDOT purchased right-of-way and parcels from private individuals. The city anticipated purchasing two of the MnDOT parcels after the project was complete. However, MnDOT has chosen to retain the lots where Orton's and Fastenal once did business. So with no business able to squeeze in, the hope is to at least install something that looks nice.

In order to cover the cost of some of the improvements the city is trying to enter into the Community Roadside Landscaping Partnership Program. The city council unanimously approved a resolution to submit an application during a special meeting, Wednesday, March 24.

“It is our desire to work with MnDOT to create aesthetically pleasing parcels for both the city and MnDOT,” the application reads. “We believe these parcels serve a gateway to our downtown area. It is our desire to landscape these parcels in a manner that creates an invitation and desire to explore our downtown area by those traveling Highway 10.”

A volunteer organization, called Wadena Gateway, formed early in the process following demolition of buildings on the sites. A tentative landscaping plan was put together.

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The plan is to use both city and volunteer labor to install and maintain the landscaping. The city will work with MnDOT to enter into a lease or Limited Use Permit, whichever mechanism is agreeable to MnDOT. The Community Roadside Landscaping Partnership Program is designed to provide technical and financial assistance to communities that are interested in landscaping state highway rights of way. This is a reimbursement program, not a grant.

"This at least provides some funding for these items," City administrator Janette Bower said.

If they are approved for funds, the city may also have to come up with funding for certain parts of the work and for regular maintenance of the sites.

In other actions:

The council unanimously approved the hire of Dustin Denny as the Public Works street maintenance worker. The position was previously offered to Benjamin Mertens, who declined the position. Denny starts at a Step 2, at $22.10 per hour, with a start date of April 12, 2021.