WILLMAR — While it is still a few months out before the Invest in Willmar local option sales tax begins to be collected, the Invest in Willmar board, plus the six sub-committees charged with planning and designing each of the projects, are hard at work. Already ideas and plans are forming for the projects, so everyone can get a running start once money starts flowing in.
The Invest in Willmar board met on Wednesday to hear updates on several of the projects. The estimated $30 million, 13-year sales tax will fund six regional projects — a recreation/event center and new athletic fields by the Willmar Civic Center, upgrades to Robbins Island and the Swansson Field complex, a Willmar Community Center project and new storm water projects across the city.
Willmar Finance director Steve Okins said the city expects to collect about $250,000 a month once collection of the tax starts on Oct. 1. When work begins in earnest for the projects, the city should have some funds already available to get things started, even though most of the funds will come from bonding. Those bonds will be paid back by the tax revenue over the 13 years it is scheduled to be in place.
"If we capture money, which we plan to given the timing of this, there should be enough to pay for a lot of the design for certain projects, that we won't have to bond for," said Interim City Administrator Brian Gramentz.
A tentative timeline for the six projects was presented at the meeting. Next year the schedule shows work beginning on Swansson Field, Robbins Island, community center design and the recreation fields. The following year, 2021, shows continued work at Robbins Island, community center construction, continued work on the recreation fields and the design and preliminary plans for the recreation and event center.
The main work on the recreation and event center will take place in 2022, along with finishing up Robbins Island. The center is tentatively scheduled to be completed in 2023. Storm water projects will take place every year between 2020 through 2024.
"They will be tweaked as we go along. This will allow us to insert it into the budgeting process," Okins told the Invest in Willmar board. "Now that the committees have come back to you, with where they are at, that will maybe accelerate some of this, to be able to do some work yet in '19."
The Invest in Willmar board is recommending the Parks and Recreation board and then the city council approve sending out requests for proposals to Marcus Construction, Terwisscha Construction and Bolton and Menk for construction manager duties, as well as put out a RFP for architectural services for each project.
"We really need an architect and a construction manager. We can talk ideas all day long," said Matt Dawson, board chairman.
Sub-committee members gave updates on the athletic fields, Robbins Island, Swansson Field, the community center and the recreation and event center. No firm designs or specs are in place for any of the projects, but many of the sub-committees are speaking with possible contractors and vendors for each project.
"We are just getting ideas," said Dawson.
The athletic field sub-committee has been speaking with contractors regarding the new fields and dome, while the Robbins Island sub-committee is working on re-locating the vehicle road as well as the walking/biking path on the island. A stadium or grandstand structure at Orange Field is being considered for the Swansson Field Complex, as well as updating the bathroom facilities. The sub-committees for both the community center and the recreation event center have also been meeting and talking about ideas.
However, without an architect or a construction manager to assist, many of the project committees are starting to feel a bit stuck and frustrated, since they can't move on to the next steps in the process, Dawson said. With council meetings upcoming and revenue starting to be collected in a few months, the hope is the Invest in Willmar committee members will soon be able to take more active steps toward investing in Willmar.
"Let's just keep moving forward. We've got to stay positive. But have to get this through the next couple of steps," Dawson said.