Shakin' their tail feathers

Who says a fourth-grader cannot make a difference? Feeling Lily Parker's request to revisit a city ordinance covering chickens rated committee action, several members of the council joined a committee suggested by Mayor George Deiss. It was agree...

Who says a fourth-grader cannot make a difference?

Feeling Lily Parker's request to revisit a city ordinance covering chickens rated committee action, several members of the council joined a committee suggested by Mayor George Deiss.

It was agreed the committee's focus will be on chickens and only chickens.

The blonde-haired Wadena-Deer Creek student showed plenty of pluck at the council's September meeting as she stood at the guest podium and quietly asked, "I wonder if you would consider changing a city ordinance about chicken farms?"

Lily backed her request with research and facts. The council learned a chicken's cluck is under seven decibels, they eat bugs and their droppings make good fertilizer.


Lily took a liking to chickens after joining the Leaf River Builders 4-H Club. She leased a chicken from a farm friend and showed it in June at the Wadena County Fair. She aspires to have some laying hens. If she was a country kid there would not be problem, but Lily and her family live near Sunnybrook Park.

Deiss was one of a roomful of adults who was impressed by the girl's quiet but thorough argument in September.

"I think she did a very good job of presenting," Deiss said after the meeting.

Coming on the heels of a social media frenzy over Wadena resident Amber Block's challenge of a city dog ordinance, which included tens of thousands of signatures from around the world and unleashed a storm of criticism on the council and the police department, Lily's desire to keep chickens in the city limits appeared to have the same chance as a snowball in the Sahara Desert.

Yet it was evident from the beginning that despite her youth, Deiss intended to give Lily's request due consideration.

The ordinance Lily would like to see changed is covered by city by laws pertaining to fowl and animals. The lone exception is made for farm animals being kept in a portion of the city zoned for agriculture.


New Highway 10 corridor


MnDOT's Claudia Dumont was invited to the meeting to give the council an update on the Highway 10 project.

"This was originally scheduled to be opened in December of 2017, and we had to postpone that until December of 2018 because we were having issues with Burlington Northern parcels. We finally have access to those parcels," Dumont said. "We are moving forward with all our new acquisitions."

Work on clearing structures from the work zone will begin in 2018. Construction of the new Highway 10 corridor will begin in 2019.

Dumont said MnDOT has been discussing the city's request for a rail quiet zone. Dumont said no decisions have yet been made, but if the zone is created raised concrete medians will be necessary on Highway 71 on both sides of the railroad tracks. Highway 10 and Highway 71 intersect one block north of the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe line. This would be necessary so the travel lanes will line up, according to Dumont.

The Orton station on the southeast side of the Highway 10-Highway 71 intersection has been bought and will be allowed to operate later in 2018.

The right turn lane from Highway 71 to Highway 10, considered by some to be of great importance, is opposed by the St. Paul office according to Dumont and is not likely to be built because of the objections by the Holiday station, located on the northwest side of the busy intersection.

"We would prefer not to add that right turn lane," Dumont said. "It's probably not a good investment."



Sharing the auditorium

The board approved a proposal by the Wadena-Deer Creek school district to amend the agreement the two government bodies share on Memorial Auditorium. The auditorium is part of the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School, which will begin undergoing a remodeling at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

The city council agreed to pay 29 percent of the debt service of the auditorium project when the school's remodeling effort begins. By approving the 29 percent the city will also add four years to a 40-year agreement presently in force since the debt service will be for 20 years.

WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum, who was in attendance to field questions the council might have, was asked why the school district went with a 20-year debt service agreement.

"To keep it uniform," Westrum said.

The school district has more than $9.45 million earmarked for upgrades in the elementary school building. District voters will be asked to decide Nov. 7 if the school board's request for an additional $5.3 million by a vote at Memorial Auditorium.

The board tabled a paint striping request on Juniper Avenue and took no action on an airport building heating review. City Administrator Brad Swenson pointed out the airport's heating bill was $3,556 over six months last year. It was pointed out that by shutting off heat in the main hangar the city would save $3,000. Future action on the airport situation was discussed.

The council approved:


• A resolution of fees and charges for 2018 recommended by department heads.

• Miscellaneous special assessments with a public hearing slated for Nov. 14.

• Setting a 4.3 percent interest rate for special assessments.

• Security upgrades needed for the city administrative building.

• Hiring Troy Wangsness (police department), Justin Hiltner (liquor store) and Ben Alberts (wellness center) to be part-time city employees.

• Step increases for Jeremy Zaic (sewer plant), Lisa Anderson (wellness center), Naomi Plautz (police department) and David Waln (street department).

• A job description amendment for an electric utility maintenance operator/meter reader.

• A resolution supporting local decision-making authority to be given to the Minnesota State Legislature.

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