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ARPA funds designated for Wadena County cities

The approved designations include $575,000 for Wadena, $231,250 for Menahga, $135,250 for Staples, $135,250 for Sebeka and $123,250 for Verndale. Nimrod and Aldrich can submit ideas for future consideration.

Bar graph shows Wadena County ARPA fund designations for some cities.
Wadena County commissioners designated $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for cities. Some cities had submitted requested amounts for specific projects as of Feb. 15, 2022.
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WADENA — After regular discussions on American Rescue Plan Act funds, Wadena County commissioners aimed for equitable city disbursements and long-term impacts for the county taxbase, schools and municipalities with $1.2 million in disbursements. The projects will hopefully lead to future construction.

The funds are not tied to specific projects but are available for cities based on proposals shared with the county. The approved designations include $575,000 for Wadena, $231,250 for Menahga, $135,250 for Staples, $135,250 for Sebeka and $123,250 for Verndale. The funds are roughly based on population to have projects in the local communities. All these communities except Verndale have submitted proposals for funding.

The city’s project proposals are to be submitted to the county by Dec. 31, 2022. The projects have to follow ARPA requirements . Cities are not receiving a sum of funds to use, rather the funds are available based on receipts submitted coordinating with the future projects.

If the designated funds are not used, they will be available for other county projects. The deadline provides time for the county to designate funds prior to the Dec. 31, 2024 federal deadline. Townships also decided not to receive federal ARPA funds when applications were open, as commissioner Mike Weyer noted.

Commissioners Jon Kangas, Murlyn Kreklau and Bill Stearns presented ideas to designate funds for the cities. They discussed designating funds based on districts, population, real estate values and 2021 new construction.

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Both Stearns and Weyer favored an idea based on city population, Kangas favored an idea based on county districts and Sheldon Monson noted interest in either city population or districts. Kreklau said sewer and water projects can support housing in the future.

Community members, department leaders, commissioners and cities have shared project ideas to use the ARPA funds, which commissioners have discussed as needs and wants.

The cities infrastructure idea comes alongside many other infrastructure requests for sewer and water projects like the Folkestad East Addition and in Menahga, Sebeka and Verndale, ADA compliance work on county roads, fiber optic cable and HVAC systems.

Here’s a look at the project ideas submitted as of the Feb. 15 meeting:

  • Menahga: Replacing a 1950s water tower, a new back-up generator for the water treatment plant and removing clay pipes in the water main project on Hwy 87.
  • Sebeka: Adding a second water source south of the Redeye River, which would include horizontal drilling from Becker Ave. to 5th St. SW and hooking up to existing infrastructure.
  • Staples: Lowering sewer and water infrastructure assessments on parcels ready for homes and a green space/park.
  • Wadena: Sewer and water infrastructure for the Folkestad's East addition.

Kangas, who represents district 5, has argued for the needs of the northern portion of the county, such as ADA sidewalk requirements that have been ongoing for three years in Menahga. He said the water tower would benefit the entire district including schools and the fire department, not just the city of Menahga. Districts 4 and 5 have also boosted construction in the county.
“Menahga doesn’t have a lot of extras to speak of from the county,” Kangas said. “It seems like the farther you get away from Wadena city, maybe, it doesn’t seem like you get quite as much attention usually.” He sees Wadena residents benefiting from Friendly Rider and local business support as the county-seat.

With $2.7 million in ARPA funds, the Wadena Development Authority is looking to use $600,000 to fulfill a housing plan.

City of Wadena Mayor George Deiss, who joined the meeting held in the Wadena City Council chambers, did not agree. He shared “statement of facts” such as federal funding available to smaller population cities that Wadena does not qualify for due to the larger population. The city also loses tax revenue based on the location of county buildings. Interim city administrator Dave Evans and Wadena Development Authority director Dean Uselman were also present.

Stearns said the new housing area in Wadena would be beneficial. He represents district 3. The city of Wadena’s funding designation is closest, with a difference of $25,000, to the project request of $600,000. Staples designation is the next closest with a difference of $64,750 from their request of $200,000.

The designated funds would bring the county’s ARPA approvals to $1,336,620. Wadena County received $2.7 million. Nimrod and Aldrich, which are not attached to city sewer and water, can submit ideas for future consideration.

Proposals sought for HVAC project

While working through project lists for ARPA funds, the county is seeking proposals for a project management firm on a possible courthouse and jail HVAC system and energy efficiency improvement project.

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The proposals will give the county information on project costs and plans. The proposal is not the county committing to the project.

Kangas noted the possible costs associated with working through a project management firm as a concern. As contractors have specialties, county coordinator Ryan Odden recommended a project management firm instead of directly working with just one contractor. Monson added a construction management company is “truly working for you.”

The proposal responses are due by March 15 at 4 p.m. via email to ryan.odden@co.wadena.mn.us and mail to Ryan Odden, PE County Coordinator Wadena County Courthouse 415 S Jefferson St., Wadena, MN 56482. More information is available on the county website.

Rebecca Mitchell is a Multimedia Reporter for the Wadena Pioneer Journal and Perham Focus. She loves capturing local stories through words, photos and videos, and providing resources for the community.
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