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This illustration shows preliminary plans for a new south entrance to the Douglas County Services building in downtown Alexandria. The space where the pool is now will become additional parking. Commissioners asked the architect to simplify the design to help cut the project's estimated price tag of $1.3 million. Illustration courtesy of Klein McCarthy Architects

Pool out, parking in

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News Alexandria, 56308
Echo Press
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Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

The old Central School pool in Alexandria is coming out.

On Tuesday, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved a $1.3 million project that will change the south end of the Douglas County Services Center - where the large rotunda-like pool building has stood for 44 years.

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The project also includes preliminary plans to remodel the county's social services and public health departments and add a new entrance with a large bank of windows on the building's south side.

Plus, removing the pool will make for a larger parking lot - about 30 more spaces - along the south end of the building.

With the addition of a large bank of ground-level windows, several offices would also be located in the space where the pool locker rooms are located now. It was noted Tuesday that the Veterans Services office would likely relocate there.

Preliminary drawings were presented to the county board Tuesday by architect Scott Fettig of Klein McCarthy Architects out of St. Louis Park and Pete Filippi representing the construction management firm, Contegrity Group Incorporated of Little Falls.

Tuesday's board meeting was the first time the project had been presented to the county board.

How will the

county pay for it?

The preliminary construction cost for the remodel project is $1,377,543.09. That includes a 10 percent contingency and construction management, architectural and engineering fees.

Commissioner Paul Anderson voted against the project during Tuesday's meeting.

He said, "Looking at this $1.3 million cost... I don't think this is the time to do it."

Anderson referenced the fact that the county will pay off a bond in 2012. He suggested that the county wait a year or two on the project and save the $500,000 they'd been paying in bonded levy payments annually.

Char Rosenow, Douglas County's auditor/treasurer, told the board two bonds are set to expire in the next few years, which will free up bond levy payments the county had been making; each bond had the county paying about $500,000 per year.

Commissioners also referenced combining this project with the courts holding addition under way at the southeast corner of the courthouse.

As of now, Rosenow said, the county has not bonded for the courthouse addition. The county is using reserve money to pay for the project costs now with the intent to bond later and reimburse its reserve fund.

Commissioners'

comments

Over the last few weeks, Commissioners Jerry Johnson and Norm Salto have served on a committee exploring the south end remodel project.

Johnson said, "This committee is committed to keeping this project from raising our levy."

He said the county's debt levy won't go up with these projects, but it won't go down either.

Salto said he believes now is the time to move forward with the project.

He said, "I don't like to do it, but our goal has been to get rid of the pool and pick up parking [spaces]."

Anderson said he'd like to see a reworking of the architectural plan to cut costs.

"Get some of the glitter out of it," Anderson said. "We don't have to have the fanciest building in town."

Commissioner Bev Bales said, "I think the committee has been watching expenses extremely well. We already have ICWC people here working on [the courthouse addition]. If we wait two or three years we could lose them."

The Institution/Community Work Crew (ICWC) has been working on the courthouse addition project. They are non-dangerous, minimum-security inmates working under the supervision of a qualified Department of Corrections crew leader.

The county is reportedly using their services to help keep costs down.

Bales added, "It would be ridiculous to stop. I think we can massage [the south end building plans] a bit but I have a lot of faith in what's been done already."

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.
(320) 763-3133
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