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Willmar City Council rescinds city hall project agreements from 2020 as facility discussions start again

The Willmar City Council rescinded previous motions to hire an architect and construction manager for the proposed Willmar City Hall/Willmar Community Center project as the future of that project is unknown.

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With the future of the new city hall and community center project up in the air, the Willmar City Council, at Monday's meting, rescinded previous resolutions hiring an architect and construction manager for the project. The city looks to restart the entire planning process for the project. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — The city of Willmar is going back to the beginning, at least in regard to the proposed new Willmar City Hall and Willmar Community Center project.

At Monday's Willmar City Council meeting, the councilors unanimously approved a resolution to rescind the motions made in March 2020 to hire BKV Group for architectural/engineering services and RJM Construction as the construction manager at risk for the city hall project.

Only a few weeks later, with the COVID-19 pandemic taking root across the state, the council put a pause on the project and the contracts were never fully executed, City Administrator Leslie Valiant said. The project was never really restarted as the council wrestled with project funding and planning.

The decision to practically rewind the project to the earliest planning stages comes after a council retreat held in early October and a workshop held Nov. 9, when the council discussed the future of the project. While the council consensus was some sort of improvements are needed for the city offices, members are no longer sure that means a brand-new building or a joint facility with the Willmar Community Center. It could even mean finding a brand-new site instead of the previously chosen community center location on Business Highway 71.

"I don't think we are ready to move into that particular site and continue this agreement," Valiant said.

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Moving forward, the council gave Valiant the approval to request proposals for a staff needs analysis for both a city hall and the Willmar Community Center. The needs analysis consulting agreement would not exceed $40,000.

"It would help staff first review what our staff needs are for both city hall and the community center and help develop what kind of building, square footage we would need for each," Valiant said. The agreement would also include preliminary building concepts and estimated costs.

The council action also allows city staff to look for and research future sites for the facilities. While the city had been working under the plan that the new facility would be a city hall and community center, that is no longer the case.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be a joint building," Valiant said.

A new city hall has been a dream for more than a decade. The latest attempt to build such a facility started in 2017 . Following months of meetings, including the formation of a city hall task force, a decision had been made to build a joint city hall and community center at the site of the current Willmar Community Center .

A budget of $10.5 million , which includes $2 million in Invest in Willmar local option sales tax revenue for the community center portion of the project, has been discussed, including possible ways to fund it. No firm council decisions on the funding have been made.

The council has also been faced with a proposal from the Willmar Ten Investors to build a joint facility in the old JCPenney space at the Uptown Willmar mall .

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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