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Willmar City Council OKs contract to assess and plan upgrade at auditorium

WILLMAR — Engan Associates of Willmar with Duffy Engineering of St. Cloud have been awarded a contract by the Willmar City Council to conduct an assessment and master plan for the historic City Auditorium.

The consultants will assist the city in redesigning the auditorium’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system after officials learned that testing revealed shortfalls in the present HVAC system spread lead contamination from the basement gun range to other parts of the building.

The council voted 7-0 Monday night to approve a resolution offered by Denis Anderson and seconded by Audrey Nelson to award the contract to Engan and Duffy.

Council approval was recommended by the Finance Committee, which Anderson chairs.

During discussion, council member Jim Dokken asked if the city has any “as-built’’ drawings of the 70-year-old auditorium, and he asked what the city will receive from Engan.

Dokken said that when he was a draftsman superintendent in the Air Force, all facilities had baseline drawings. Every time a room or part of it was modified, he said, the drawings were updated. Dokken asked if the city has a system of drawings for the auditorium.

The auditorium was constructed by the Works Progress Administration in 1936-37. Last September, the city closed the gun range due to a malfunction in the HVAC system. At the same time, access to other areas of the building was limited due to concerns about potential lead contamination from the gun range HVAC.

City Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday, who has been heading up the study effort, said the city has 1938 blueprints of the auditorium’s perimeter and support beams.

In the last month, Halliday said, engineering technician staff drafted by standard measurements all the rooms on all four levels of the building.

Halliday said the city does not have drawings of the HVAC ductwork. However, the city has a fairly detailed blueprint of the 1977 basement gun range.

Halliday said the city is not having blueprints drafted.

“It’s more of a review of things and some recommendations to correct it,’’ he said. “Should the recommendations be rearranged ductwork and start things differently, then they will hopefully be assigned with another contract to prepare bid specs and to get everything both decommissioned, cleaned and rectified and back in order.’’

Halliday said the agreement will include a provision that all blueprints created on the building will return to the city’s possession electronically for the next go-around.

“Hopefully there’s never another one,’’ he added.

Dokken thanked Halliday for his explanation.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Anderson, Nelsen, Dokken, Ron Christianson, Bruce DeBlieck, Rick Fagerlie and Tim Johnson. Steve Ahmann was absent.

Engan’s bid was the lowest of three proposals. Two other firms also submitted proposals.

Officials said one of Engan’s specialties is historical preservation and accessing grants, including a state grant that could cover up to 50 percent of the study cost.

In addition, Duffy Engineering was noted for experience with six public and private firing ranges.

The council allocated $250,000 in the 2014 budget for range and auditorium improvements. Officials have said the city is trying to move the project forward because many different users have been inconvenienced by the closure of the gun range and other areas of the auditorium.

In other business, the council accepted a Finance Committee recommendation and voted to deny a request by cable operator Windstream to close its Willmar office and to leave the existing cable franchise agreement with Windstream unchanged.

Anderson said Windstream approached the city with the request to close the local office. But the cable television franchise requires a cable company to maintain a local office within the city for 40 hours per week, and provide staff for bill payments, subscriber inquires and equipment transfers.

Windstream had proposed language to amend the franchise agreement that would allow the company to close the local office with the following stipulations: Windstream makes a payment of $10,000 to the city; a third-party location be able to accept payment 40 hours per week; subscribers do not have to return cable equipment; and that Windstream will notify subscribers prior to the effective date.

It was noted that Charter Communications, which also provides cable services in Willmar, is also operating under identical cable franchise agreement.

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