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Wadena County Board: American Rescue Act funds discussion coming in September

Wadena County has received $1.3 million and expects another $1.3 million in about a year. How would you spend it?

A series of green trees with the shape of Wadena County in blue.
Contributed / Wadena County

Counties are dreaming, and implementing, ideas for the use of federal American Rescue Act funds available through 2024. And commissioners say it’s time for Wadena County to discuss their ideas and the guidelines attached with the funds.

The ideas in other counties range from improving broadband to a business grant program and support of revenue losses, as county coordinator Ryan Odden said. Wadena County has received $1.3 million and expects another $1.3 million in about a year.

County auditor-treasurer Heather Olson said she twice requested a work session on the topic, and commissioners said they did not receive her email. Commissioner Murlyn Kreklau had also previously asked about updates on forming a committee about the funds. They will discuss the funds during the Sept. 14 board meeting. The report on county buildings from BHH Partners will also be discussed if possible.

While there are guidelines, Olson said the aspects changed frequently with the CARES Act funds and there is guidance out now that could change.

“If there’s other things we can do to help the community as a whole and not just build government bigger that’s my thought,” said commissioner Jon Kangas during the Aug. 17 meeting.

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Here’s a look at the county allocations from the federal CARES Act funds in 2020:

The board also hopes to encourage townships to apply for federal funds if the application is still open. Townships were invited to submit previously, though there was not much interest, according to Olson. She is unsure of how many townships have applied this year. The city of Wadena will also receive funds.
The Minnesota Association of Townships has resources for spending the funds on their website.

Commissioners also:

  • Approved the full time hire of Wadena County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tyler Savaloja at $22.78 an hour.

  • Approved the hire of Sara Carpenter as an administrative assistant/paralegal with the county attorney’s office for $21.47 an hour.

  • Approved supporting the Minnesota Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance program with MAHUBE-OTWA.

  • Reviewed the tax forfeited land sale timeline. The sale is online through Bid4Assets. Images of the properties will be available online. A $100 deposit for bidding is due by Sept. 28. The auction opens on Oct. 4 and closes on Oct. 6.

  • Approved bonding funds for the new access road to the new Tri-County Health Care center. The funds originally went to the city of Wadena but will actually go through Wadena and Otter Tail counties. The counties will work with DEED on utilizing the project funds.

  • Approved replacing curve signs in the county. Most of the funding comes through a federal grant, and the county’s cost is around $5,000. There are 47 curves in the county.

  • Thanked the Human Services department and director Jennifer Westrum for their successful quality measures, including a reduction in their employee turnover rate and the number of out of home placements for children as well as working on a system for revenue processing with the out of home placement program.

  • Agreed Human Services should begin looking for a new car after an accident. The board was favorable about using Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust dividend funds for a replacement car as soon as possible, which will be discussed at a later board meeting. The board also hopes for a full recovery for the employee involved in the accident.

  • Discussed negotiation strategy on labor contracts in a closed session.

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or rmitchell@postbulletin.com.
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