Wadena's $575,000 ARPA request is approved
A lot more money is still needed to pay for the infrastructure project in southeast Wadena.
WADENA — The Wadena County board has approved a grant agreement with the city of Wadena for an amount of $575,000 from ARPA funds.
The funds are to be used to put infrastructure in the ground to create an enlarged housing district in the city with a planned addition of 62 shovel ready residential lots in the new Folkestad’s East addition. This amount was previously earmarked for this project and the board was approving the latest request.
Wadena Development Authority Director Dean Uselman shared that about 36 of these lots would be for single family, owner occupied homes, unless the buyer wants to build a larger home. The others were planned to be part of a twin-home complex, similar to an existing development in the southwest part of Wadena. The exact wording of a restrictive covenant is still in the works for this new area.
Uselman shared that work remains to be done for the city to come up with the remaining funds to pay for this project. Costs have increased significantly since the initial idea was sprung. As outlined in a request, Uselman shared that the city has designated $298,000 in ARPA funds. The total project cost is listed as $2.87 million, according to a Bolton and Menk Engineering report.
Uselman said its possible tax abatement or tax increment financing may be pursued to help cover costs associated with this project as a way to avoid placing special assessments on the lots. Uselman feels that special assessments do not work and he referenced numerous other times they have been used to create housing in the county, to no avail.
The county board was unanimous in approving the funds, as they were for a water tower project in Menahga and a water line project in Sebeka.
An aggressive plan is to bid out the Wadena project this winter to begin construction in the spring and possible home construction soon after. Uselman said that both developers are still interested in moving ahead, though they are having struggles with getting materials for their current projects.
Uselman expects the Wadena City Council to take action on this project at their next meeting.
City of Verndale
While the county did not have a request from the city of Verndale last month, they do now. Commissioner Mike Weyer reported that he met with the city council about their plans and they have numerous ideas including replacement of outdated street lights, and fire hydrants. They have hopes of improving one roadway as a major path to the Family Life Church, which is also a busy daycare and food shelf in the community; and an idea to move the city maintenance out of the current downtown facility, and out to the new wastewater plant. Commissioners expressed their thoughts on which projects were better than others but ultimately agreed that the county should not be picking and choosing their projects, but that the city should present their priority project and be ready to “put some skin in the game.”
Wadena County Coordinator Ryan Odden said all the projects would be a benefit to the city and county.
It was noted that some of these projects are not water and sewer related, which was a required use early on in discussions of ARPA fund usage. Since the county board changed how these funds can be designated, this opens the door to other uses.
In other actions, the Wadena County Board heard an audit report on the county finances ending Dec. 31, 2021. The report gave the county a “clean” opinion. The main material weaknesses were a lack of segregation of duties, which is not uncommon in a smaller department such as Wadena County. Otherwise it showed the county with healthy reserves. Revenues exceeded expenditures by $1,163,298 in governmental funds. In the general fund, revenues exceeded expenditures by $497,569.
- Commissioner Mike Weyer reported that the Wadena County Fair board continues to have issues to resolve. One is that some of the fair premiums have not been paid out and the board member in charge was recently removed from the board.
The Ag Society is showing a bottom line of $1,900 in the hole at this point, but with haunted house revenue coming in and upcoming winter storage funds, they should be at least break even. Weyer noted that Coordinator Odden approved an expense with a plumber to blow out the water lines to avoid damage to existing water lines. Weyer said he has been requesting a profit and loss report from the fair board but at the most recent meeting they did not have minutes or financial reports to review. Their annual meeting is set for 7 p.m., October 20, at the fairgrounds beer garden.