Wadena County commissioners discuss fairground maintenance
The list of proposed maintenance projects includes additional steel siding underneath the grandstand, rebuilding the dairy barn’s northwest wall and repairs for the beef barn. Other projects include permanent gates at the east and Hwy 10 entrances, new floor and repairs for the Home and Hobbies building, old log building repairs and a new roof for the church.
WADENA — After discussing needed maintenance projects at the Wadena County fairgrounds, commissioners broadened the discussion to the fairgrounds as a whole.
The discussion on the table at the March 1 meeting was adding the Ag Society’s allotment from 2021 to the 2022 allotment. The allotment of $13,000 would allow the fair board to utilize a total of $26,000 for maintenance projects. Commissioners previously approved American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for adding sewer and water to the Beer Garden, and decided costs would not be moved to the fairgrounds maintenance fund.
The Ag Society has a list of projects and repair plans, which were updated on a “productive” fairgrounds building tour, as county coordinator Ryan Odden said. The fair board along with commissioners Bill Stearns and Mike Weyer were also on the tour.
The list of proposed maintenance projects includes additional steel siding underneath the grandstand, rebuilding the dairy barn’s northwest wall and repairs for the beef barn. Other projects include permanent gates at the east and Hwy 10 entrances, new floor and repairs for the Home and Hobbies building, old log building repairs and a new roof for the church. The list did not include costs.
“Legally we can do this to help them out,” Stearns said. “They do have very good concerns for action items.”
Some buildings have been discussed for several years and shifted due to other priorities.
With the list of needed projects, commissioners discussed the county managing maintenance at the fairgrounds. The Ag Society would still share project needs and work on project plans. The fair board members are volunteers who spend hours taking care of the fairgrounds, as commissioner Sheldon Monson noted. The county management could also help determine projects as needs and wants.
“Being these are county-owned and we want to maintain them to the best … should the county be making sure that it’s done up to county specs,” said commissioner Jon Kangas.
In 2020 and 2021, the fair board spent $5,000 of the maintenance fund. The Ag Society also requested using allocated funds from 2020, which are not available. Both material costs and securing a contractor impacted the completion of projects after the fair board had quotes for projects last year. Monson said combined projects could attract contractors.
“I think at some point we just need to solve this whole issue, have everybody know what they’re going to pay for, what they’re going to do and what the county’s obligations going to be so we don’t continue to have these surprise bills and discussions,” said commissioner Murlyn Kreklau. “I spent my entire youth there. I’m not anti-fair.”
“If we’re going to spend this much money, we need to be heavily involved in what gets done out there. Because right now whatever we’re doing isn’t working, it’s not getting kept up, it’s costing too much money and nobody’s happy,” Kreklau continued. “We do need a fair and these buildings obviously need to have some repairs done.”
Auditor-treasurer Heather Olson noted shifting the funds under possibly the building department fund for county management would be easy. Currently the fair board submits project receipts for reimbursement to the county.
“We’re technically kind of just making them the middle man on the situation for property that we own,” Olson said. The county owns the fairground land and buildings like the dairy barn.
The board also:
- Heard from county attorney Kyra Ladd on county attorney salaries in Minnesota. The 2021 average salary for full-time county attorneys is $130,830, including figures from 2019 and 2020 salaries since 2021 data was not available. Ladd’s salary is $127,036. She has been the Wadena County attorney for 16 years. Ladd said the data was important for commissioners to have as facts and information matter when making decisions and if they face possible litigation.
- Discussed a resolution on elected position salaries . The salaries were set in 2021. Minnesota statute says elected position salaries “shall” be set by resolution. Wadena County has traditionally set salaries by motion. Kangas also noted the need for the resolution at the Jan. 4 meeting. Setting the salaries by motion has not been an issue in the audit process, which the state reviews annually, as Olson said. Ladd explained a motion and resolution are similar in Wadena County’s process. The statute also requires salaries for elected officials to be set the previous year. Kangas noted the attorney’s salary is tied with the judge's salary schedule and included a 4.6% increase. Other positions included a 2% increase. Commissioners, except Kangas, approved the resolution to ratify the original motion made on Dec. 21, 2021. The commissioner salaries were removed from the resolution to avoid confusion. The elected position salaries would have separate board resolutions in the future.
- Asked for more time on room idea changes to the Wadena County courthouse. The idea started with a video conference room and went to include a mail room. The current mail room needs a designated space for ease in delivering mail and packages as well as for mass county mailings. Ladd noted office space used by the auditor’s office as storage is “awfully expensive real estate” when there is available space at the Wensman building. The attorney’s office is also in the process of moving records downstairs. With the upcoming discussion on the county recorder position possibly becoming appointed, commissioner Kangas and Kreklau noted a land service department idea for the recorder, planning and zoning and assessor’s offices. Commissioners also asked for cost information.
- Heard an ARPA funds update, including that either new sewer or water lines may not be eligible for the funds. Olson is looking into more information. This raised questions on the Wadena, Sebeka and fairgrounds projects. Olson also noted that past debt like assessments and bond payments are not eligible. Cities have not yet received a reward letter or information from the county.
- Approved a budget amendment with a $7,924 increase for the Kitchigami Regional Library System . The county’s annual funds support the Wadena City Library and the Outreach Bookmobile. Olson noted KRLS had a $70,000 surplus in recent years. It was learned this can only fund capital projects for the building. Commissioners were concerned that possible budget cuts could affect the bookmobile service, which is popular in Menahga, Sebeka and Nimrod. The increase brings the county’s funding portion to the requested amount of $104,151.