Wadena courthouse emergency generator installation delayed

The long-awaited installation of a new emergency generator for the Courthouse and jail has been delayed by a vote of the county board at its Jan. 13 meeting. The generator, which cost about

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The long-awaited installation of a new emergency generator for the Courthouse and jail has been delayed by a vote of the county board at its Jan. 13 meeting. The generator, which cost about $160,000, was ordered from Cummins Equipment on Aug. 19 after the purchase was approved by the board.

The specifications for the new generator were developed by Widseth Smith Nolting (WSN) at a cost of about $16,000, Commissioner Bill Stearns pointed out.

The new generator was delivered recently, after transportation delays and mistakes left the equipment sitting in Green Bay, Wisconsin for a couple of weeks. But when the generator and the specifications were examined in early January by a state electrical inspector prior to installation, the inspector found that the wiring, switches and shut-off safety systems designed by WSN would not meet state requirements. The inspector refused to approve the equipment installation, declaring the design unacceptable.

The county had planned to install the generator on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 19, when the Courthouse would be closed and very few employees would be present. Now the installation has been postponed indefinitely so that the electrical issues can be studied and resolved.

County Attorney Kyra Ladd recommended that the board postpone the installation until WSN has responded to an inquiry from the state electrical inspector made on Jan. 9. When contacted, the Brainerd office of WSN said that the electrical engineer who had designed the specifications was no longer employed by WSN. The Brainerd employee then referred the inspector to a subcontractor working in the Duluth office of WSN. Ladd said that discussing the problem with a subcontractor was not acceptable, and that someone in WSN must confront the issue with the state inspector and a Wadena County representative.


Ladd, County Coordinator Curt Kreklau and Emergency Manager Luke Manderschied will work together to get information for the board in time for the Jan. 20 board meeting.

Also at the Jan. 13 meeting, the board heard a presentation by Solid Waste Director Mike Hanan regarding the proposed Solid Waste Designation Plan and the Solid Waste Supply Agreement prepared for the five counties that own the Prairie Lakes Municipal Solid Waste Authority (PLMSWA) in Perham (formerly known as The Incinerator).

The Solid Waste Designation Plan describes how solid waste is to be managed within the five-county service area from the present into the future. The Solid Waste Supply Agreement lays out the commitments of each of the member counties for waste supply and waste delivery. In order to operate the PLMSWA solid waste facility effectively, a steady, reliable stream of garbage must be delivered by the five counties.

As soon as all five counties have approved the Solid Waste Designation Plan and the Solid Waste Supply Agreement, the plan and agreement will be submitted to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Designation Ordinances will be drafted for each county, laying out the requirements for collection, transport and delivery of garbage by haulers to the PLMSWA facility.

The board voted to approve the Solid Waste Designation Plan and the Solid Waste Supply Agreement.

In other business, the board:

• Authorized the Highway Department to recruit and hire someone to fill the position of Lead Highway Maintenance Worker, a union position, at Grade 54. The salary for the position will be set by the county board when finalists for the position are identified.

• Approved the routine purchase of materials, equipment rentals and other necessary items in the Road and Bridge budget for the 2015 road construction and maintenance season, at a cost of $505,572.


• Approved the management team's request to proceed with preparations for a discussion and development of a strategic plan for the county, with the assistance of personnel from the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC).

• Learned from Comm. Stearns that the South Country Health Alliance of 11 counties is in excellent financial shape. Stearns, who is a member of the board of directors of SCHA, has initiated a discussion of that board to determine whether some of the initial investments in SCHA made by Todd, Wadena and Morrison Counties can be paid back to the counties now that SCHA is making a profit.

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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