Wadena County commissioner Jon Kangas visited with the Menahga City Council last week to discuss the possibility of county offices using a vacated portion of a city-owned building.

Last fall, Menahga School’s early childhood program moved out of the space. The Menahga Food Shelf is currently using part of the building.

“We just wanted to reach out and say, ‘Is there a possibility to share some of that space?’” asked Kangas, noting there are county employees who drive to Wadena simply to punch in, then return to Menahga to work with clients. “There’s an hour of county time wasted and an hour of their own time wasted.”

Describing his query as “initial contact,” Kangas asked the council to think about it. “Would it work out to put three or four offices in there?”

It might be a good opportunity for local residents to have easy access to county staff, rather than trying to find a ride to Wadena, he said.

Mayor Joan Liimatta said, “We were looking at the possibility of day care in there, but we could probably share space.”

Council member Tim Ellingson asked which county entities might make use of the space.

“I think it would be public health and human services,” Kangas said.

According to old floor plans, Kangas said, the 3,200-square-foot building once housed the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program, immunizations, Head Start, a meeting room and the food shelf.

Council member Karol Andreasen asked who would pay to add walls and remodel.

“It’s too early to even say,” Kangas said. “If there’s no interest, there’s no sense digging too deep.”

Andreasen said she liked the idea.

Child care pods

Calling it “the Head Start building,” City Administrator Curt Kreklau reported a Sourcewell licensor inspected it and “gave the nod for two day care pods of up to 14 seats each.”

A fire marshall also checked it, recommending that the city review the age of the smoke detectors and purchase carbon monoxide detectors.

Kreklau said he spoke with First Children’s Finance, a nonprofit that specializes in child care across Minnesota.

“We’ve done some initial discussion about financial modeling and what it might look like to make it profitable to have the two pods, in terms of what the city would charge for rate, still have a profitable business model and provide 24 to 28 child care spots,” he said.

He also spoke with Lutheran Social Services (LSS), which provides meals for the Menahga Senior Center. LSS said they could accommodate another 28 meals “and be glad to work with us on that.”

Kreklau said he’d like to have that discussion with the council about the financials.

“It’s all about the highest, best use for the building, so I’m doing the homework on that side,” he said.