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County board takes revised look at courthouse HVAC improvements

New meat processing business gets approval.

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Wadena County Board members and ICS staff take a tour of the courthouse roof to review the equipment used to heat, cool and provide fresh air to the facility in the summer of 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
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WADENA — After initial sticker shock and a revised look at updating the Wadena County Courthouse HVAC, commissioners found that the cost to make improvements is still higher than hoped.

Lori Christensen of ICS, Inc., gave the board an updated proposal for HVAC improvements to the county courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 1, with the county jail excluded (its HVAC system is newer and replacement is not as urgently needed). No bathrooms, plumbing fixtures, or water piping improvements were included, though replacement of the ceilings and light fixtures were included. Asbestos abatement was also not included.

The budget as presented was for $3,034,490, with $1,962,500 designated specifically for IAQ (indoor air quality) construction costs. Several commissioners made reference to “sticker shock,” though Commissioner Kangas noted, “Everything’s giving us sticker shock in the construction industry right now.”

“I appreciate that we need to do something eventually… it’s a 50-year-old system,” Commissioner Murlyn Kreklau said. But he also noted that with only $1.2 million in AARPA funds still available, they would need to find alternative funding sources.

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Commissioner Mike Weyer speaks with building services supervisor Sean Uselman in the heart of the Wadena County Courthouse's heating and cooling center in summer 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

“Nothing’s getting any cheaper,” said Kangas., adding that it was “something we have to do. It’s not going to be easy, but it has to be done.”
In other actions, the board:
Heard a proposal by property owner Michael Hudalla that the county board consider vacating its easement on a cartway that goes through his property, from 130th street to the south property line of Old Wadena County Park.

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There was lengthy discussion, but ultimately, no action taken on the item. The topic was postponed until the Tuesday, Nov. 15 meeting. Hudalla was present for the discussion, and had much to say about trespassers on his property, blatantly disregarding the signs and barricades warning them that it was private land. He noted that a conservation officer had actually told him he couldn’t bar the public from using the property.
“I have property there, I pay taxes and the public is abusing that (i.e., his property rights)," Hudalla said.

The easement has, in the past, been used for access to snowmobile trails that go through the area, but the tornado that went through on Memorial Day 2022 left it inaccessible and the bridge is unusable for this purpose. The trails have been rerouted around the area, though snowmobile clubs have expressed interest in restoring them to their original route if they could obtain the funding to do so.

Currently, the path is designated as a private driveway, not a cartway. County parks administrator Deana Malone said that if the county were to vacate its easement there were no guarantees that Hudalla, or any future owner, would allow the county access to Old Wadena Park through his property.
“Once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said. “We’ll never get it back.”
County Attorney, Kyra Ladd, noted that “gentleman’s agreements” were not enforceable by law. Any agreement they reached would need to be official, and in writing. Hudalla said he would actually prefer that.
Under highway actions, the board approved final payment to Anderson Bros. Construction Company of $36,023 for a project to resurface a portion of CSAH 2 between CSAH’s 26 and 30, on the northern city limits of Staples, passed on a 5-9 vote. The total cost of the project was $720,462.

  • They also heard posting of used road grader on Minn bid with a minimum price of $80,000 did not receive any acceptable offers; highest bid was $45,000. Consensus was reached to allow County Engineer Darin Fellbaum to repost the grader in the spring with a lowered price of $50,000.

In solid waste matters, some discussion was given to an ongoing problem with AAA Rolloff, a licensed solid waste hauler that is chronically delinquent in paying its tipping fees. Currently the county is requiring the hauler to make use of its landfill on a cash-only basis.The solid waste department has retained the services of an attorney (Pemberton) to assist with recovering the unpaid balance, but they would rather not go through with legal proceedings to revoke the company’s license, as they have been making payments and trying to reduce the debt as much as they are able. They are also attempting to sell the business, per McConn. No official action was taken.

  • A request from Solid Waste Director Chris McConn to be authorized to sign a $23,500 proposal from Widseth of Alexandria, Minn., to redesign the final cover of the county landfill was approved on a 5-0 vote.

Fee hearing
A public hearing opened at 9:15 a.m. and closed at 9:50 p.m. for discussion of the proposed new county fee schedule. Resolution approving the fees passed on a 4-1 vote, with Chairman Kangas voting against. Kangas voiced some concerns about specific fees.
Conditional use permit
A conditional use permit for a custom meat processing facility in Orton Township, east of Nimrod on County Road 12, was approved on a 5-0 vote. Commissioners commented that meat processing facilities in the area were sparse and much-needed.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at vgerdes@dlnewspapers.com.
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