Infrastructure ideas popular among the Wadena County ARPA list

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.

Wadena County commissioners pose for a photo.
Wadena County board members include (from left) commissioners Bill Stearns, Murlyn Kreklau, Sheldon Monson, Mike Weyer and Jon Kangas.
Contributed / Verndale Sun
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WADENA — What if cities in Wadena County received American Rescue Act Plan (ARPA) funds to work on infrastructure projects?

That’s the latest idea commissioner Murlyn Kreklau shared with commissioners during their regular board meeting on Jan. 18. The infrastructure funds aren’t a formal proposal or anywhere near set in stone but it could help build new houses and businesses. Commissioner Bill Stearns was not present and commissioner Mike Weyer joined online.

Cities could submit their project idea by the end of December 2022 with project completion by December 2023. If the county decided on $1 million for infrastructure projects, the cities could receive funding based on their population size. Kreklau said an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) ordinance would also benefit housing without any funding required.

The 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. The ongoing idea list also includes Human Services placement costs, an elevator from the jail to courts, a remote county office, revitalizing downtown areas, community college scholarships and tax abatement.

About $100,000 of the $2.7 million has been approved. Future approvals will need to submit bills to the county rather than receiving a “lump sum” of funds, as auditor-treasurer Heather Olson said. The approvals need to be made thoughtfully for the funds to be shared amongst the county, as commissioners Jon Kangas and Kreklau noted.


Pedestrian access on Greenwood Avenue

Commissioners also discussed a trail along the Greenwood Avenue project. The mile-long trail provides the “sole pedestrian access” from town to the new Tri-County Health Care center on Hwy 10, as county engineer Darin Fellbaum said.

Fellbaum hopes to apply early for two Department of Natural Resource grants due to their competitive nature. The project is currently in the design phase, and the grading cost is unknown. The applications also include a 25% local match, which would be funded by Tri-County. The remaining paving costs would be funded through the grant, with the county funding the grading costs. The grant funding would be approved after the project is started.

The county is responsible for maintaining the trail, though Fellbaum expects the cost to be minimal. The county has a maintenance agreement with the city of Wadena for certain roads, which commissioners would like more detail on as the grants require county responsibility for at least 20 years. Maintenance aspects such as snow removal and storm sewer work.

Kangas noted the use of the trail as more of a sidewalk and said the benefit is not for the whole county. The trail also helps with ADA requirements, which require pedestrian access within city limits through a wider shoulder on the road or a trail. Kangas said there are ADA requirements that need updating throughout the county. These are worked on as county road projects come up, as county coordinator Ryan Odden noted. With board agreement, commissioner Sheldon Monson said the trail is beneficial such as for Safe Routes to School and the road updates could lead to further development.

Commissioners tabled the discussion until the Feb. 1 meeting based on the maintenance question.

Actual assessments are to be determined. Actions following the meeting may be to award bids for the estimated $4.8 million project.

The board also:

  • Approved the county allocation for Todd-Wadena Community Corrections of $370,102. This is about a 10% increase, as shared with the budget committee in August. Corrections employees are on the Todd County payroll. 
  • Approved an extended lease agreement for the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program Inc (RMCEP) at the Human Services building through June 30, 2022. The staff is determining how much space is needed as some staff are working remotely.
  • Set a minimum salary for elected officials, which is completed every four years. The minimums are not for employees currently in the positions. The minimums are: $74,434 for auditor-treasurer, $60,606 for recorder, $87,736 for sheriff and $121,992 for attorney. The county attorney is a set minimum based on a salary grid and the other minimums are 80% of the current position salaries. Both Olson and recorder Soledad Henriksen plan to run again. The board previously discussed appointed positions for the auditor-treasurer and recorder. If the process went forward for appointment, the positions would move to the salary grid.
  • Approved the application grant for new election machines. The county’s cost of $16,142.79 is higher than expected due to how much the grant can cover. County attorney Kyra Ladd said COVID-19 vaccination requirements are included in certain state and federal grants. The county needs to be aware of these requirements since the county could have to pay back the grants if the requirements are not followed. Olson said she is not aware of vaccination requirements with this grant.
  • Discussed moving water and sewer extension costs from the Beer Garden project at the fairgrounds from the county ARPA funds to the ag society maintenance fund. The ag society has maintenance funds available. In order to approve the change, the motion needs to be made by commissioners Weyer and Stearns who made the motion in November.
  • Discussed the 2022 committee assignments for commissioners. The commissioners hope to discuss which committees are needed at a future work session.
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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