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Willmar approves replacement of Civic Center refrigeration system

Briana Sanchez/ Tribune file photo Kevin Madsen prepares the ice for the Glacial Ridge Curling Club in this March 10 file photo at the Civic Center.

WILLMAR — The first steps were approved Monday night at the Willmar City Council meeting to replace the aging refrigeration systems at the Willmar Civic Center.

"We need to get this done, quickly," said Councilor Ron Christianson.

The council approved an agreement with Stevens Engineering to complete the design of the new system. The professional design services agreement will cost $197,300, with the total project not to exceed $2.6 million.

The preliminary plan is to replace the two different plants with one updated system which will maintain ice sheets in both the Cardinal and Blue Line Arenas.

The system that is in the Civic Center now is over 30 years old. In January 2016, one of the chillers in the Cardinal Arena failed, causing the ice to start to melt. Emergency repairs were needed to get it back up and running in time for scheduled hockey games.

The council first heard the presentation on the Stevens Engineering agreement during Monday's work session, but moved it forward to the regular meeting for immediate action due to time constraints.

"We've got a little bit of urgency," said Community Education and Recreation Director Steve Brisendine.

The entire project, from design work to construction, is estimated to take between nine and 12 months. If the city wants the new plant in place by the start of the 2018-2019 ice season, the design work needs to be started quickly.

There were concerns raised about the cost of the agreement.

"That engineering price seems awfully, awfully high," Christianson said.

Brisendine said that Stevens Engineering is the industry leader in this type of work and also has experience with the Willmar Civic Center.

"We think they bring the most to the table," Brisendine said.

The refrigeration project is in the preliminary 2018 budget, by using bonding, but that won't be approved until December.

"Putting the plans before that makes me very nervous. We don't have the budget approved to pay for that yet," Councilor Shawn Mueske said.

The council also approved a resolution that will allow the city to reimburse itself in 2018 for costs it incurred regarding this project in 2017, using bond proceeds.

Some on the council also questioned starting the refrigeration project before the Civic Center master plan is completed. There were worries about choosing the proper location for the new ice plant, especially if the city decides to add a third sheet of ice at the complex.

"I think we know where this plant is going to go," Brisendine said.

He also added that Stevens Engineering will work with 292 Design Group on the master plan in regard to the ice plant.

City Administrator Ike Holland said, from what he has been told about the current refrigeration system, completing it sooner rather than later is the way to go.

"If you don't take care of these things, they'll come back to bite you at the worst time," Holland said.