Kangas says sell the Wadena County Fairgrounds

It's been brought up at several county board meetings as a means to put valuable county property on the tax roles.

The grandstand of the Wadena County Fairgrounds was packed Saturday afternoon for the Performance Rear Ends' Grand $lam team demolition derby.
The grandstand of the Wadena County Fairgrounds was packed Saturday afternoon for the Performance Rear Ends' Grand $lam team demolition derby.

WADENA — The Wadena County Board is often looking at ways to cut spending in a time of rising government costs and during a year where the levy is increasing by over $1 million.

While ideas about raising revenue are far more limited, commissioners are considering selling land they own in an effort to make some cash and increase the tax base.

At least one commissioner is convinced that one way to raise that revenue is by selling off valuable county-owned land — such as the Wadena County Fairgrounds.

Dist. 5 Commissioner Jon Kangas, who represents the northern cap of the county, has suggested on numerous occasions, and again on Tuesday, Oct. 11, that the county should sell the Wadena County Fairgrounds.

“The fairgrounds, I think it’s the most valuable property we have,” Kangas said. There’s a lease on the property through 2025, though as Kangas mentioned there may be conditions that allow them to end the lease sooner.
This is the same fairgrounds that Tri-County Health Care attempted to purchase just a couple years ago as they sought out new property for their health care facility. It's instead being built just to the west, in Otter Tail County.


The cost to relocate the Wadena County Fairgrounds and build a new hospital in that location is, at this time, not an option Tri County Health Care plans to pursue.

“It’s prime commercial property along Hwy 10 and the financial condition that the county is in, we really have to be looking at that. I don’t think that the county needs to own a race track, an enduro track and all this … I would not be opposed at looking at something more centrally located in the county with a 4-H building and stuff.”

He feels that that property sale could help cover the extensive upgrades the county is looking at having for the courthouse HVAC system.

Other commissioners did not chime in with agreement with that idea, but they did seem interested in other ideas such as selling a portion of Wadena County’s nine parks as well as a portion of the Bell Hill property between Wadena and Sebeka.

Commission Mike Weyer mentioned that the county parks are perhaps larger then they need to be to provide recreational opportunities in the county. The parks have some very valuable acreage along the Crow Wing River. Anderson’s Crossing, near Sebeka, was mentioned as having 108 acres; Old Wadena, near Staples, had several parcels, one being 193 acres. Only a few of the acres are used for camping at each site, Kangas said.

“I think everything could be looked at,” Kangas said. Weyer wanted to find out if they could sell portions of the county parks. County attorney Kyra Ladd said they can sell county land unless there are conditions on the property. Historical significance may be part of that issue.

“You’ve got substantial acres there that are just there,” Weyer said. The county property is not taxed. Selling the land to private parties would make them taxable.

Regarding the Bell Hill property, this idea seemed to have more broad board support. Wadena County Coordinator Ryan Odden agreed that they should either end the lease with the Bell Hill Recovery Center or tear it up and write a new one that is fair to both parties.

As it stands, Odden said the Bell Hill Recovery Center pays the county $1 a year for their lease. The lease is good for 10 years and as long as they ask to renew, the lease is automatically renewed whether the county board approves or not.


Odden said the lease, as written, isn’t valid, in his opinion. The lease is coming due soon.
Board members were quick to suggest that at least one parcel at Bell Hill should be explored with a soil bore test to determine if it would be valuable for the county to lease the property for gravel extraction. The Bell Hill property is county owned and includes three parcels, 36, 20 and 3.5 acres respectively.

“I don’t have any ax to grind with them either, but if we want to get that land for gravel, we should tell them that,” Commissioner Bill Stearns said.

Commissioner Sheldon Monson said for starters, they should look at the lease as there was no reason to continue with an unfair lease agreement.
These discussions took place at a work session on Tuesday, Oct. 11, where no votes were taken to take action on any of the matters.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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