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City of Willmar investigating funding sources for renovation of firing range

The city of Willmar is investigating sources of funding to renovate the shooting range in the Willmar City Auditorium. The range was closed months ago after problems surfaced with proper ventilation. (Tribune file photo by Gary Miller)

WILLMAR — A City Council committee has directed city staff to investigate the concept of tapping three funding sources to renovate the firing range located in the basement of the historic City Auditorium.

Firing range renovation is among three steps recommended in an architect’s study to clear up the auditorium’s environmental issues and restore the 77-year-old building to full public access.

The City Council received the study from Engan Associates of Willmar on April 21 and agreed to proceed with the first step of hazardous material (lead) abatement caused by the firing range and the second step of installing new ventilation equipment in the building.

The third step was renovating the firing range. The renovation includes installing a separate ventilation system.

Lead abatement was estimated at $115,500; ventilation equipment was estimated at $190,410. The council has budgeted $250,000 for auditorium work this year. Firing range renovation was estimated at $254,087. Also, council members would like gutters repaired to prevent leaking, estimated at $30,000.

The total for steps 1-3 and gutter repair was estimated at $589,497.

The study recommended steps 1 and 2 be completed first before proceeding with step 3. The council voted to move ahead with steps 1 and 2, and said they wanted to proceed with step 3, provided city staff could find the money to pay for it.

To that end, the council sent the funding question back to the Finance Committee for discussion.

Monday evening, committee members received a list of three possible funding sources for firing range renovation from City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday.

Committee members discussed options and settled on looking into three possible sources.

The first source was the $1 million insurance deductible reserve established by the council years ago to cover damage to uninsured assets such as park equipment caused by large catastrophic events such as a tornado or high wind.

Halliday said the council could take $250,000 from the reserve for the auditorium project, provided the council restores the fund to the $1 million threshold.

The second possible source was the $1 million Public Improvement Revolving fund, which the council started years ago to cash flow street projects until financing can be initiated. The fund must be replenished within a five-year period through the budgeting process, explained Finance Director Steve Okins.

The third possible source was the Capital Improvement Program. Program funds budgeted but not yet spent this year for projects and purchases could be redirected for other purposes.

City Administrator Charlene Stevens said staff could look more closely at 2014 projects, which projects are underway, which can be delayed and what the impact in delaying this year’s projects would have on implementing future projects.

Committee Chairman Denis Anderson asked for comments from committee members.

“We got ourselves painted into a corner,’’ said Tim Johnson.

He said the city has not maintained the auditorium and other buildings, but said it looks like funds are available for steps 1-3. Johnson said he realizes taking money from this year’s projects have a cascading effect.

“Let’s get it done,’’ said committee member Rick Fagerlie.

“We’ve got three ways. We’ll get it done,’’ said Anderson.

Besides settling on funding options, the committee directed staff to contract with Engan Associates to research Minnesota historical and cultural heritage grants that may be available to pay for a portion of the work.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, three persons spoke in favor of reopening the firing range, which was closed eight months ago after the lead problem surfaced, and they recommended maintenance updates to the auditorium be completed.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150