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Upgrades: Willmar City Council OKs agreement for Auditorium lead mediation, asbestos removal

WILLMAR — The Willmar City Council Monday night approved a staff-recommended $208,500 agreement with ECCO of Hastings to remediate lead contamination and remove asbestos pipe wrapping in the historic City Auditorium.

City-Clerk Treasurer Kevin Halliday said the council budgeted $250,000 in the 2014 capital improvement program to pay for the work. The ECCO bid was the lowest of four bids submitted by four contractors and opened by city staff July 28.

The work is needed after tests last year detected the presence of lead dust from the privately-operated basement firing range. The dust was spread through the building by a malfunction of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. As a result, the firing range has been closed.

The council last December hired Engan Associates of Willmar to develop an auditorium master plan. The work by ECCO is the first part of a multi-phase project of implementing numerous needed upgrades and improvements identified in the plan.

During the second phase, Engan Associates is preparing bid specifications for installation of a new air handling system.

The work by ECCO will consist of the following:

 Capping and leaving attic ducts in place and running new ducts alongside the current ducts.

 Capping the ends and leaving the horizontal duct under the balcony.

 Capping the ends and leaving the horizontal duct under the lobby doors.

 Capping the ends and leaving the horizontal duct in the basement.

 Removing 200 feet of thermal system asbestos pipe wrap and fittings.

Halliday said those were staff recommendations if council members were comfortable encapsulating ductwork that has lead dust in it and taking care of the asbestos pipe wrapping since the city is spending so much on the air testing.

The agreement includes the city’s estimated cost of using 13, 40-cubic-yard, dumpsters to remove demolition non-hazardous waste, non-demolition waste (city property such as chairs), and removing lead hazardous material.

Halliday the price of the work won’t be finally determined without knowing the exact volume of the waste to be removed.

“We think we’re very close in our reasonable estimates,” Halliday said.

Mayor Pro Tempore Denis Anderson, serving in the absence of Mayor Frank Yanish, asked if the estimated final cost would be $208,500.

“Correct,” said Halliday.

Before council members approved the bid, they debated whether or not the contaminated air ducts should be removed rather than kept in place and capped.

Ron Christianson said leaving the ductwork and capping it in place makes sense, rather than taking it apart and replacing sheetrock.

Anderson asked if leaving and capping the existing ducts and installing new ductwork is less expensive. Halliday said it was.

Council member Jim Dokken asked whether or not the capping could fail in the future.

Andy Engan of Engan Associates said hazardous materials can either be abated or encapsulated, whether it’s asbestos or lead, and he said both practices are common. He said removal makes everyone feel better.But he said it’s common practice in a case like this to abandon the ductwork in place and encapsulate it.

Engan thought the only time it would be “coming back to haunt you” would be if the building were demolished. “I don’t think that’s in anybody’s plan right now,” he said.

Audrey Nelsen asked if leaving the ductwork would be a detriment to the city receiving a preservation grant for the building. Engan said it could be a potential extra hurdle, but he couldn’t say for sure.

Nelsen said she would feel more comfortable knowing that the lead is gone.

“We’re paying the price to have to do this,” she said. “Obviously we need to get it done. I just really question whether we’re going to be shortsighted here by not looking at the future.”

Christianson said the building is worth preserving. But he said the council should be prudent with taxpayers’ money. Christianson said he didn’t think taxpayers will be mad because they see some exposed ductwork as long as it functions, and that activities continue including use of the gun range.

Council members voting in favor were Anderson, Christianson, Dokken, Nelsen, Bruce DeBlieck, Rick Fagerlie and Tim Johnson. Steve Ahmann was absent.

The Auditorium is described as a well-constructed building that continues to provide long-term value for the city. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was built between 1936 and 1937 by the Works Progress Administration.

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