5 things you should know from Wadena City Council’s latest actions
The “no winter parking” issue has some changes and a new “no parking” feature has been added.
WADENA — In the flurry of government meetings this week, Wadena City Council’s latest meeting brought some significant issues to light that you should be aware of.
The meeting brought a packed council room with people crowding in around the doorway to listen in and comment on the topics. While this meeting had 11 items of new business, here’s a quick look at five of the items that received the most discussion time.
Odd/even winter parking gets first reading
A shift from a proposed no winter parking ordinance on city streets overnight has shifted to proposed odd/even parking from midnight to 7 a.m. from November 1 to March 31.
This ordinance comes forward because city staff want to do snow removal as quickly and safely as possible, Public Works Director Dan Kovar said.
Much of the concern about no parking came from landlords of rentals, which did not have ample parking for tenants, Kovar said.
Kovar said he wants to try this even/odd system for a season though he has concerns that it will take more time, cost more money and slow the process of clearing the business district.
“It’s either going to have us slow down the process of hauling downtown, slow down the process of cleaning the opposite side of the street or we’re going to have to add equipment and staff to make this work. This even/odd will not be a cost savings,” Kovar warned.
The committee involved in planning this ordinance bowed to opposition of no parking but city council members were not convinced that the even/odd schedule was the best move. They were, however, willing to give it a try.
Councilman Wade Miller said he hoped that they do not hear an increase in complaints over snow not removed fast enough with this new system. Mayor George Deiss read a note from councilman Mark Lunde who was not present. Lunde wrote that he was opposed to a change as he felt that the current 24-hour parking is what should be enforced now.
Members of the public spoke about being thankful that they have an option for parking as one said she has no option. Another resident said her visiting family would have no place to park if they were to come visit under the no winter parking ordinance.
Landlord and resident Craig Folkestad was frustrated that the city was moving ahead with a system that sounded like it would be more expensive, time consuming and confusing.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” Folkestad said.
The council had their first reading of the new ordinance on Oct. 11 and plan to have their second reading November 15.
This ordinance reads like this: “No vehicle or equipment shall be parked upon any street or avenue between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. at the following locations: a. On the side of the street or avenue bearing odd-numbered U.S. Post Office addresses on every even-numbered date; and b. On the side of the street or avenue bearing even-numbered U.S. Post Office addresses on every odd-numbered date.” In other words, you are to park on the even numbered side of the street on even numbered days and vice versa. The ordinance says what not to do, not what you should do.
No trailers on the streets
No parking of trailers and other recreational equipment on Wadena city streets at any time is some of the reading of another new ordinance that had its first reading on Oct. 11. This new ordinance states: “It is unlawful for any person to leave or park a recreational vehicle or trailer on or within the limits of any street or right-of-way, except where signs are erected designating the place as a campsite or in a mobile home park.”
This new ordinance came on the heels of the vehicle parking ordinance, with most of the public leaving just prior to the reading. Some concern from the remaining public was that this ordinance is not needed. The feeling was that the current ordinance of 24-hour parking should be enforced to avoid the need for this more restrictive ordinance.
Chief of Police Naomi Plautz said that ordinance becomes hard to enforce when it relies heavily on complaints and follow up to determine that the trailer or vehicle has indeed not moved in the last 24 hours. With an ordinance of no parking at all, the citation or towing could be immediate. While that’s the case, City Administrator Kim Schroeder said they would not be ticketing or towing trailers that were clearly in use such as someone working on a construction project or doing yard work. It was more aimed at those instances where the street has become a year-round storage area.
This ordinance is not yet enacted but would be if approved following its second reading on November 15.
Citizen’s Hwy 10 petition
A petition has begun among community businesses with deep concerns over the plans to reconstruct Hwy 10 into four lanes through Wadena. The petition, brought forward by Wadena businessmen Tom Paper and Jason Merickel, asks the city council to support the business community in their hopes of creating a win-win result with MnDOT.
The petition does not express a plan of what a win-win result would look like, rather it outlines the chief concerns of MnDOT’s proposed plan. Those concerns of MnDOT’s proposal include: it restricts free and direct access to Wadena businesses along the Hwy 10 corridor; it limits ingress and egress to local businesses; it creates complexity and has numerous safety concerns. Safety concerns included the excessive speed of traffic, a wider crossing for pedestrians walking and bicycle users, according to the petition. Paper said the concerns were gathered after listing to the public.
The petition urges people to sign against the Hwy 10 expansion.
“There is over 20 businesses and probably over 500 people that have signed our petition. I also want to mention that over the course of the project we’ve heard many comments about Hwy 10 and Hwy 71 construction projects from a few years ago. I have to say that we rarely heard positive comments about how that project turned out,” Paper said.
Merickel also spoke on the topic and asked for support.
“You need strong businesses to have a strong community,” Merickel said. “We’re not like anti-expansion, but we need something that shows access and decent places to turn around because it’s pretty vague right now.”
Merickel said the highway is a good highway as it is.
Others speaking on the topic had complaints about how the lack of access points and added medians mean vehicles have to put on extra miles to navigate around the corridor. There was fear that the headaches of this plan would put more traffic on residential streets and send business out of town.
Dollar General returns
The city sold two commercial lots to The Overland Group, i.e., Dollar General, as the company plans to construct a building along Hwy 71 south of Wadena. This is the second time that the company has sought commercial property in Wadena. The last time was in 2019. This time Wadena County Economic Development director Dean Uselman said the agreement with the company is more favorable to the city. They paid $60,000 for the lots.
Completion of construction is set to be complete on or before Dec. 31, 2023. The location is just across the street from the new car wash south of town.
$2 million in funds remains for Hwy 10 related work
$2.1 million remains from an original $5 million in funds the city of Wadena received to be used towards work along Hwy 10. Funds used so far helped pay for the in town utilities and dewatering work along Hwy 10 and the fairgrounds drainage project, which District 3 Wadena County Commissioner of Bill Stearns said is working. He noted that pumps at that site have operated about 28 hours and moved around 1.5 million gallons of water since startup in May 2022. Wadena County Coordinator Ryan Odden said that’s 1.5 million gallons not going through the city’s storm sewer system.
Stearns and Odden asked the council to consider how these remaining funds may be used related to Hwy 10 work and suggested they should ask for an extension from the state Legislature to retain the funds as they are to be used by the end of 2022. Odden said the city has already been granted these funds so holding on to them may be easier than requesting new funds.
Stearns and Odden also noted that the city of Wadena area has benefited from over $2.2 million in road projects paid for with Local Option Sales Tax dollars. Another possible $1 million project is in the works for 2024 to complete County Road 101 out of Wadena.