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Kandiyohi Co., Minn., considers $100K museum request

Officials with the Kandiyohi County Historical Society are looking to add 1,700 square feet to the county museum in Willmar. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners heard a formal request Tuesday to make a $100,000 contribution to off-set costs to expand the county's history museum.

The request will get a thorough vetting Thursday when the commissioners begin a line-by-line review of the proposed 2013 budget.

Jill Wohnoutka, director of the Kandiyohi County Historical Society, told the commissioners the plan is to build a 1,700-square-foot, multi-purpose community room on the west side of the museum with enough seating space for 100 people.

The space would be used primarily for educational programs associated with the museum but would be available for any community use, Wohnoutka said.

She said the two bids the historical society board of directors is considering are lower than the $343,000 estimate.

Carlson Construction had a general construction bid of $247,598 and Chester Contracting had a bid of $273,600.

Wohnoutka said the historical society has $53,000 in its building fund and will continue to solicit funds from other government entities, foundations, businesses and private individuals to raise enough funds so construction can begin yet this fall.

She said the city of Willmar is being asked to contribute $5,000 and smaller towns and townships are being asked to donate $500 to $1,000.

It's hoped that entities like the Willmar Foundation, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and local businesses will also make substantial donations, Wohnoutka said.

The county is being asked to make the largest donation.

The commissioners didn't indicate how they would act on the request but Commissioner Dennis Peterson gave his support of the historical society's mission and said many counties budget considerably more for their museums than Kandiyohi County does.

"I think it's a great historical society," Peterson said. "It's a great asset to the county."

Wohnoutka said if construction begins on schedule this fall it would be completed by February or March.

The commissioners gave final approval to a joint powers agreement to establish a joint community health board with Renville County that has been in the works for the last two years.

The Renville County Commissioners approved the agreement last week.

"This is a culmination of a lot of work," said Chairman Richard Larson, adding that pairing with Renville County was a "very good fit" for Kandiyohi County.

Ann Stehn, public health director and acting family services director, said the new partnership will be a "very effective relationship that will open some nice doors" for future funding and programs.

Stehn and Jill Bruns, the Renville County Public Health director, will travel Thursday to the state Department of Health to discuss the process of making a "smooth transition" to the joint community health board, which goes into effect Jan. 1.

Because of withdrawal provisions, the agreement will last a minimum of two years, Stehn said.

In other action:

- The commissioners will hold a public hearing at 11 a.m. Sept. 18 on a request to allow a drainage outlet from Meeker County into Kandiyohi County ditch 52. In April, the commissioners voted to delay action until a second engineering study was conducted. Commissioner Harlan Madsen, who has land in that ditch district, did not participate or vote on the issue this spring and will again recuse himself from the issue.

- The commissioners were informed that the county received a $105,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources for a proposed recreational trail near Eagle Lake that would provide a link to the existing Glacial Lakes State Trail.

- Debb Sheehan, director of Pact for Families, highlighted programs the children's mental health collaborative supports, including school surveys that gauge students' use of alcohol and marijuana, and Renee Nolting gave an update on programs funded by United Way of West Central Minnesota and the growing needs of people in the county.

"Times are tough," Nolting said. "We have a lot of people in need."

- At the recommendation of Recorder Julie Kalkbrenner, the commissioners set a $20 fee for processing absent marriage applications to cover staff time and postage for the service. The fee goes into effect today.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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