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Wadena Board Chair signs architect contract for Transfer Station expansion

Wadena commissioners had second thoughts about the expansion of the county's Transfer Station at a Dec. 16 board meeting. In November, Solid Waste Director Mike Hanan presented the board with a

Larry Malone retired after 44 years. Front row: Larry Malone and Ryan Odden. Back row: Commissioners Hofer, Bounds, Stearns, Hillukka and Noon.
Larry Malone retired after 44 years. Front row: Larry Malone and Ryan Odden. Back row: Commissioners Hofer, Bounds, Stearns, Hillukka and Noon.
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Wadena commissioners had second thoughts about the expansion of the county's Transfer Station at a Dec. 16 board meeting.

In November, Solid Waste Director Mike Hanan presented the board with a proposal from Foss Architecture, Fargo, to provide architect services for the expansion of the Transfer Station for an estimated $72,000 - 6 ½ percent of the project's $1.1 million construction cost. Commissioners asked Hanan to get more information about the architect fees.

Wade Ericson from Foss Architecture attended the Dec. 16 meeting along with Hanan to answer the board's questions and explain his firm's design for the expansion.

At the Nov. 12 board meeting, commissioners spent considerable time debating the merits of continuing with the expansion project at the county's Transfer Station. Hanan repeatedly explained the need for the expansion, the alternatives, and projected costs for the various expansion options brought up by commissioners. For reasons that were not made clear, two commissioners objected to the architect expense.

After more than an hour of discussion, the board voted 4 to 1 at the Nov. 12 meeting to approve Foss as the architect for the project and to proceed with detailed construction plans for the Transfer Station expansion.

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At the Dec. 16 meeting, commissioners met to vote to approve the signing of the contract with Foss Architecture by Board Chair Bill Stearns.

Ericson distributed copies of his firm's design and schematic drawings for the Transfer Station expansion. Comm. Dave Hillukka then asked whether they could use a fabric roof. Ericson explained that attaching a fabric roof to an existing metal roof was difficult and might prove inadequate for the expanded building. Comm. Stearns then asked whether the project could be done in two phases to spread out the costs. Ericson agreed that it could be done that way. There were questions about the architect fees, and whether the fees would be reduced if commissioners scaled back the scope of the project.

After about 30 minutes of questions and debate, the board voted to have Stearns sign the contract with Foss Architecture so that Foss can begin preparing the construction documents for the project. After the construction documents are ready, the project will be put out for bids.

Also at the Dec. 16 board meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Civil Engineering Technician III Larry Malone, who has worked for the county for 44 years and 70 months, starting in 1970. County Engineer Ryan Odden praised Malone's work. Malone's last day will be Dec. 31.

Odden asked the board to approve promoting Civil Engineering Technician II Tyler Boyne to Malone's position. Boyne has six years' experience and has earned all the certifications that MnDOT requires for the Civil Engineering Tech III position. The board approved the promotion.

Odden next asked the board to approve recruiting for someone to fill Boyne's position. He said that other county engineers have told him that they have had a difficult time filling any Civil Engineering Tech I or II position because there is a shortage of candidates. Many qualified candidates have gone to North Dakota to work in the oil fracking industry there, which pays a great deal more than most Minnesota counties can. The board approved the recruitment process to begin in January 2015.

In other business, the board:

• Accepted the bid of the Verndale Sun to serve as the official newspaper of Wadena County for 2015, and to publish the first financial statement for the county. The Sebeka Menahga Review Messenger will publish the second financial statement. No bids were received from the Wadena Pioneer Journal or the Staples World.

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• Approved a Conditional Use Permit for Todd and Patricia Meech, Section 33, Orton Township, in the A-2 Mixed Ag/Forestry District, to expand their feedlot from 499 Animal Units to 999 Animal Units. This is a dairy operation that currently milks 420 cows. The expansion will be possible because of the use of seven robots to feed, wash, milk, and release each animal twice daily. Really.

• Approved a gambling permit for England Prairie Pioneer Club for Aug. 23, 2015 for bingo and a raffle fundraiser.

• Heard the annual report of George Coulombe, county surveyor, about the work he did in locating corners for 47 sections, many quarter-sections, and several road monuments in 2014.

• Approved Ryan Odden's attendance at the National County Engineers' Conference in April 2015.

• Approved a plan proposed by Sheriff Mike Carr to save the county $1,300 in 2015 by having Sheriff's Department employees purchase their own cell phones and be reimbursed by the county for monthly cell phone service through payroll additions to their paychecks. This approval was proceeded and followed by an extensive and wide-ranging, though unresolved discussion of the county's proposed Personal Device Policy, privacy issues, data ownership, data security, Fourth Amendment rights, and other topics. County Attorney Kyra Ladd said that the issues can be summarized this way: who owns what (service, phone, information). Kreklau will conduct an audit of department heads to see which county employees currently use county cell phones, personal cell phones, or both, to determine whether to expand the Sheriff's plan to the entire county, and how to update the county's proposed Personal Device Policy.

• Accepted the resignation of Jail Administrator Tom Speed, who has 33 years of service to the county. Speed's last day will be Dec. 24. The board examined the Jail Administrator job description and referred it to Management Consultant Mike Gibson for job grade assessment prior to recruiting a new Jail Administrator.

• Approved the Innovation Funding Contract with NJPA that will pay for the county's new Drug Task Force Agent through a grant in 2015. The new agent is expected to be hired in January, attend three months of training, and be ready to go to work in April 2015.

• Approved an on-sale liquor license for R & J Horse Sales for 2015.

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• Approved the purchase of a floor scrubber for the Maintenance Department.

• Postponed discussion and approval of the county's final 2014 pay 2015 property tax levy and 2015 budget until the Dec. 22 meeting.

• Held a discussion about who is authorized to consult the county's labor attorney about labor issues with county employees. Comm. Rodney Bounds tried to remove the authority of Kreklau, who has in his job description the responsibilities of coordinating human resources (personnel) issues, to consult with the labor attorney, and require Kreklau to ask the board for permission to consult the labor attorney. Chair Stearns defended Kreklau, along with Comm. Jim Hofer, who read aloud portions of Kreklau's job description that bear directly on Kreklau's responsibilities in the area of human resources. County Attorney Ladd said that she is happy to serve as a screening point for legal issues before they are brought to the county labor attorney, but supported Kreklau's authority to make the contacts with the labor attorney he believes are necessary. Accountant Janet Kern confirmed the board's current policy of routing all calls to the labor attorney through Kreklau and his HR budget. The discussion was prompted by a billing from the labor attorney of $906 for consultations in November 2014. The labor attorney, based in St Cloud, charges $200 per hour, which is well below the going rate for a specialized attorney's time in this field. It was agreed that the issue should be discussed once again at the county's next department head/management team committee meetings.

Related Topics: WADENA COUNTY BOARD
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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