Reduced construction costs prompted the Wadena City Council to add a few fun leisure pool features, a more desirable pool disinfection system and a new type of flooring at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center, which is on pace to open this fall.
At a March 11 meeting, council members approved more than $200,000 in savings the general contractor had negotiated over the past few months, then unanimously signed off on the improvements it had previously left out of the $12.4 million project. The council also heard a construction update and accepted $115,000 worth of in-kind donations from Arvig Communications Systems for technology in the building.
Spending the surplus
When bids for the facility came in at a $1 million more than expected last year, the city chipped in another half million dollars for construction and a citizen committee fundraised an additional $300,000. The city made up the difference by eliminating a backup boiler, reducing the scope of dirt work - the biggest savings - and trimming thousands of dollars in other areas.
City administrator Brad Swenson's February financial recap showed the project with about a $139,000 surplus, which allowed the council to spend that money on lower priority items.
That includes $20,000 for three new leisure pool amenities: a mini water dome, a stream jet and a triple fun tree (water spout, funnel and bucket).
Instead of a traditional disinfectant system, the wellness center's four pools will use ultraviolet technology. The system costs $57,000, but will reduce the need for chlorine and is considered more effective at combating waterborne pathogens.
"It helps things not corrode as fast and it helps people's comfort," said Ken Francois, project manager for Kraus-Anderson Construction Company.
The council also opted to spend nearly $46,000 to change the floor finish in the lobby, hallway and reception areas from sealed concrete to resilient sheet flooring.
Factoring in the added projects, the wellness center now has a surplus of about $4,000, Swenson said.
Because Wadena-Deer Creek High School does not have a swim team, council members decided against adding starting blocks for the lap pool.
They deliberated over another optional project that, for $55,000-$75,000, would add ceramic wall tile in showers, restrooms and locker rooms.
"We do not have enough money for (the tile)," Swenson told the council. "If you wanted to do that, it's up to you, but we'd have to come up with that money."
Swenson said one option would be to tap into the nearly $350,000 contingency fund, but that might be needed as construction progresses or for furniture and fixtures.
Council member Gillette Kempf voiced her support for more tile. "I think aesthetics are important."
But the council decided to delay a decision until it could get a clearer idea of how much the project would cost.
Earlier in the March 11 meeting, the council accepted in-kind donations totaling $115,000 from Arvig Communication Systems.
The company originally offered $100,000 in equipment, but upped the pledge in order to provide all technology they pledged to provide.
Swenson, Francois and the architects worked with Arvig over the past few weeks to put together the proposals, which involve communications wiring along with phone, paging and security systems.
The council approval allows the process to continue, but certain details might change as specific needs become clearer, Swenson said. "It's still kind of a work in progress, to a certain degree."
Added Francois: "There's a little bit of flexibility."
Despite days lost to the bitter winter, the wellness center is still on pace to open in October.
Construction is about a week behind schedule, Francois said.
"It's been a tough winter," he said. "But (Brandon Larkin, project superintendent) and all of the contractors on site have powered through."
Larkin said "we're behind in a couple areas and ahead in a couple areas."
Council member Jeanette Baymler said she drove by the site on a cold, windy day as crews worked unabated.
"They should get combat pay," she quipped.
Mayor Wayne Wolden toured the facility earlier March 11 with Mary Maslowski, whose family's multimillion dollar donation helped make the project a reality.
Wolden urged his colleagues to stop by themselves. "There's a lot of activity."
The next day at the site, workers dug footings for the slide, framed the therapy pool, caulked the pool ceiling, laid rock on the roof and installed the ventilation system.
The roof structure is complete and the roof itself will be finished within three weeks, Larkin said. "We're in the building enclosure phase now."