A plan is in hand to beautify the otherwise plain short grass entry into Wadena and that plan is now submitted to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for approval and possible assistance.

The Wadena City Council approved a plan during their regular city council meeting Oct. 15 that was first brought to the Wadena Park Board in September by interested citizens including Luther Nervig and Kent Scheer.

This project is far from some of the grand plans originally brought forth in 2018 when the Wadena Crossroads Project was first announced. At that time discussion included artistic structures, and themes based on trains. But a lot has changed about use of the space.

Mainly, these two lots on either side of Hwy 71 and to the south of Hwy 10 are owned by MnDOT and they do not intend on handing ownership over to the city, according to Public Works director Dan Kovar. While the city won’t own them, if they want to have planting there they also must maintain them.

That means the city, at this point, is basically limited to plantings only, with permission. Their plan looks to plant three 75-foot rows of tall drought-resistant grass (Karl Foerster) angled toward Wadena’s downtown, as well as rows of trees outward from the intersection, six on the east side and four on the west side. The plants look to add beauty to the space and maintain a directional pull toward the city’s main street. The grass and trees will be spaced out to provide room for mowing between them all. The cost of materials was estimated at about $3,200.

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The group was hoping for swift approval in order to work up the soil this fall and get black dirt brought in to make the site plant ready. It’s unclear if that work will proceed this fall with winter inching closer.

The committee plans to either have the work paid for using MnDOT’s Community Roadside Landscape Partnership Program or these community volunteers plan to cover the costs of getting it done. Regardless, MnDOT must approve the work before work is to begin.

One request of the committee was to have water at the site to maintain the plantings. Water infrastructure will not be installed but water could be made available as city staff have time. In park board discussions, volunteers of the Crossroads group suggested they would cart water to the site if needed.

In other actions, the council approved the following items:

  • The first reading of the fee schedule which shows an increase to all Maslowski Wellness and Research Center memberships, including a daily fee increase from $6 to $7. Equipment rental rates also show small increases. Pitching a tent at Sunnybrook campground will cost you $19. Water and sewer rates are increasing for those using over the first minimum amount. For residential water that means those using over 750 cubic feet would switch to $2.85 per 750 cubic feet as a summer rate.
  • Accepting a settlement amount of $158.06 for one law enforcement vehicle purchased that was allegedly part of an overpayment issue, according to a class action lawsuit involving Nelson Auto Center.
  • Approving federal AIP grant agreement for the Wadena Municipal Airport Wind Cone Relocation Project. Interim city administrator David Evans said that reseeding at the airport was completed and the grass has taken hold.
  • Renewed the lease agreement with the Department of Motor Vehicles for a testing site at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center. The agreement has the DMV paying $100 a month or $1,200 per year for the Mason Brothers meeting room.
  • Approved a request for proposals to select a new auditing firm for the fiscal years 2021, 2022 and 2023. The firm the city has been using, Eide Bailly LLP, informed the city that they “need to reduce the number of municipal audits we work on and increase our fees.” Rather than pass on further cost to the city they explained that they would not be working for the city moving forward. The city will seek proposals through Oct. 29.
  • In a cost saving move, the council approved the purchase a new John Deere 672G motor grader through a lease-to-own agreement. The Public Works department was looking at buying a road grader last year but held off, they were again hoping to do so in 2021 but found that leasing to buy over seven years was cheaper over buying outright. The council also heard that costs were expected to rise by 20% prompting them to move ahead with the purchase to save significant money. The city can pay off the equipment early but they are not expected to get the equipment until late March 2022.
  • Approved hiring Bolton & Menk to provide the professional services required to design plans and specifications, manage inspections and provide telecom antenna management for the refurbishment of the Wadena water tower. Bolton & Menk, the low bidder, bid $66,000 for the management of the project. Work needed primarily includes resealing and recoating of the interior and exterior of the water tower. Work on the 500,000 gallon water tower is expected to take 10-12 weeks and last until late summer or fall of 2022. With the recoating of the structure comes an opportunity to add new graphics or colors.
  • Accepted a gift of donated trees to be planted next to the tennis courts at 7th Street SW. David and Julia Snyder would like to purchase and plant the trees to provide shade for future tennis spectators. The Wadena Park Board recommended that the city council accept the donation from the Snyders. The tree species will be from an approved boulevard tree list.