Willmar's Rice Park requests concern committee

WILLMAR -- A possible contract with SRF Consulting Group for construction management services for a project in Willmar's Rice Park brought out concerns from a Willmar City Council member. Councilman Steve Ahmann, a member of the council's Public ...

WILLMAR - A possible contract with SRF Consulting Group for construction management services for a project in Willmar’s Rice Park brought out concerns from a Willmar City Council member. Councilman Steve Ahmann, a member of the council’s Public Works and Safety Committee, said Tuesday that the committee and the rest of the council are not getting enough say in project decisions.
“What is going on here, this is madness,” Ahmann said.
He said he is concerned the city was being hit up for more money for a project that is not even designed yet.
The Rice Park project potentially includes replacing the old wading pool with a splash pad, constructing a new park shelter with restrooms and changing rooms, removing some amenities, such as the tennis courts, and putting in a new walking path around the park. There would also be a multi-use green space.
“We have not seen schematics, we’ve seen some cost estimates based on information,” Ahmann said, adding he has talked with constituents who aren’t happy the city could install a splash pad which does not continually recycle the water it uses.
He was also concerned the committee does not know what the annual maintenance or staff costs for the park will be with the new additions.
Steve Brisendine, Community Education and Recreation director, said that SRF, along with Engan Associates which will be a subcontractor, will be doing the design and cost estimates of the project. SRF will also hire the other subcontractors needed for the project.
“This is a proposal for SRF to get at much of the information Mr. Ahmann is asking us for. This is the first step to create that information and move forward with this project,” he said.
When it comes to individual systems being used in the project, nothing has been decided. SRF will gather information on the two different kinds of splash pads and a recommendation will be brought to the committee.
“Those decisions haven’t been made yet,” he said.
Once the designs are created and bids collected, Brisendine will come back to the committee for approval on each portion, said Councilman Ron Christianson, committee chairman.
“We’ll discuss them individually when they come,” Christianson said.
The SRF contract will be up for possible approval by the full council Monday night. The cost of the contract is $56,827.
Ahmann said he is also worried about the amount the city is spending on outside consulting and management contracts.
The committee on Tuesday also approved an agreement with Bolton and Menk for design and construction-related services for a lift station for $89,565, about 14 percent of the total estimated project cost of $640,000.
“We’re spending more and more on consulting fees. It is starting to bother me,” Ahmann said.
Brisendine said SRF consultants have skills and experience that city staff members do not regarding the Rice Park project, including designing the splash pad and park shelter.
“It is money well-spent,” Brisendine said.
Public Works Director Sean Christensen echoed those sentiments regarding the Bolton & Menk agreement.
“Our specialty is not lift stations. Fourteen percent for design and construction services is very reasonable,” Christensen said.
Last winter the city purchased seven new playground units to be installed in six city parks. While installation of the equipment was included in the purchase price, the ground cover underneath the equipment was not.
“An expense we didn’t have the revenue or the budget for last year,” Brisendine said.
It also had not been decided what kind of ground cover to use. Most of the city parks have gravel. However, other options are more compliant with the Americans with Disability Act. It was decided a manufactured wood product from Flex Fiber would be the best fit.
“It is a firm enough surface,” Brisendine said for wheelchairs to go over, is flame retardant and does not have mold issues.
The purchase request presented to the committee was $18,655 for 1,612 cubic yards of the fiber, to cover all seven playgrounds.
Brisendine said funding would come from the park funds in the 2016 capital improvement program. However, the total $706,000 parks allocation approved by the City Council was designated to go toward the Rice Park project. The playground purchase was approved, though Councilwoman Audrey Nelsen wanted Brisendine to take another look at last year’s funds, to see if money could be found there before taking money from this year’s budget.
“We believe there wasn’t enough left to purchase this product,” Brisendine said, though he will look again.
Nelsen’s concern is taking $18,000 from the park’s budget for this year could short the Rice Park project.


Rice Park updates move forward

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 or direct 320-214-4373.

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