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Growing costs at KRLS draws concern in Wadena County where the budget could increase 51%

The addition of a union and increased hours were noted as reasons for increases to budget.

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WADENA — Concerns are mounting over additional funds that may be requested to operate the Kitchigami Regional Library System, which operates one library in Wadena County, the Wadena City Library.

Wadena County Commissioner Murlyn Kreklau, who sits on the KRLS board representing the county, shared that in 2022 the budget increase for Wadena County was $8,000 or about an 8% increase. About $7,000 of that was related to an increase in staffing hours due to the Wadena Library planned expansion of their hours in a new location. The library is in the process of moving to a new building, a block north of the former location.

Most other counties saw a 4% increase to their budgets in 2022.

Kreklau shared that KRLS had underspent their budgets for about seven years, which created a surplus of $1.16 million. This money was designated to be spent on improvements and needs of the various buildings provided by each city. Wadena’s share of that amount was $71,274, which Kreklau believed had been dispersed.There are nine libraries in the system along with a headquarters and mobile library.

More alarming was a 2023 proposal for Wadena County’s budget to increase by $53,000, or 51%. Other member counties show increases from 12 to 20%.

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“This is due to estimated wage increases related to a new union and the contract negotiations still in progress,” Kreklau wrote in a report to the commissioners. It should be noted that this increase was just a proposal and could change before it makes it before the county boards for a vote.

With the big change in increased costs due to the new library, Kreklau hinted that more of the budget costs should perhaps be shouldered by the most benefiting city – Wadena. Kreklau spoke about the unfortunate placement of the county services, including the library, being in the far southeast corner of the county as a hardship for those traveling from as far as Menahga.

“Maybe future increases in the budget for the city library should be a dollar split between the city and county,” Kreklau said.

Commissioners agreed that the library system was important and were not advocating for limiting services. They noted that the Mobile Library was a huge asset for those communities living on the other end of the county. Kreklau noted that a reduction to spending would ultimately result in cutting of services and hours. No one indicated an interest in that.

The topic would be coming back to the board once the final budget proposal was ready.

In other discussions:

Chairman Jon Kangas asked why the Old Wadena Society should receive the same allocation as normal if they are not holding their rendezvous this year. The society made the difficult decision to not hold the event this year after a Memorial Day tornado struck and leveled the Old Wadena County Park. Commissioner Mike Weyer responded that the funds requested are for normal operating expenses outside of running the rendezvous which is largely supported through grants. He said discussions were to use the funds for maintenance, to replace aged and destroyed tree identification signs in the park.

The $2,500 allocation was approved as part of the board consent agenda.

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In their request for funding, Old Wadena Society chairman Darlys Hamberg noted that the board is discussing a “Park Proper” in which the community could be invited to help with cleanup and be part of a potluck or BBQ as they move towards beautifying the park.

Grader rebuild

The commissioners approved a plan to rebuild the county’s oldest (1999) road grader in an effort to prolong its life and save money in the county. A new grader was scheduled for 2023, however the cost of a new unit, about $350,000, and the time it takes to get said equipment brought county engineer Darin Fellbaum to bring forward the idea of a rebuild on what he called a piece of equipment still in good condition and worth rebuilding. That rebuild comes at a cost of $197,256.

Jail kitchen update

Work continues on the jail kitchen remodel project at the Wadena County Jail. Sgt. Bryan Savaloja updated commissioners that upon removal of appliances it was discovered that there was a need for floor replacement as well. They also found some other issues in need of funding.

The bids commissioners were looking at were from April and May so commissioners had some concerns that those prices would be honored.

The commissioners were presented with a recommendation to approve the industrial flooring quote from CFS Interiors & Flooring (Eagan, MN) for the kitchen only in amount up to $3,203, the electrician quote from Platinum Electric (Wadena) in an amount up to $2,100, and the plumbing quote from Steven Peterson Sales and Service (Verndale) in an amount up to $5,000 for a total of $10,303. They instead approved spending up to $15,000 to complete the work needed in the kitchen.

In other actions, the board approved:

  • Authorizing the Human Resources and Solid Waste department to create a new job description for one of the existing Solid Waste attendant positions so that a Class A Commercial Driver’s License is not included. The request came after qualified candidates were not being found to fill two open positions at the Solid Waste department. Solid Waste director Wade Miller requested the change to non-CDL with the hope that they could fill at least a partial need at the landfill.
    With the last employee leaving for a different trucking job, also for Wadena County, Commissioner Bill Stearns brought up the idea that perhaps other truck staff could assist this department in times of need. The idea was to be considered and discussed further with considerations to union employee regulations.
  • Approved Alex Rubbish for a solid waste/recycling hauler license. They’ll be serving the cities of Wadena, Sebeka and Menahga as well as townships along that route.
  • Approved paying a $2,466 bill out of the fair maintenance fund for the cost of gravel added to the fairgrounds prior to the fair. The county covers the cost of labor and other expenses related to placing the gravel. About 274 yards of class-5 gravel were added at the site.
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