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The Wadena City Council listen to a construction update from the general contractors and architects during a special meeting last Wednesday night at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center.

Wellness center nears completion

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As construction winds down at the Maslowski Wellness and Research Center, Wadena's elected leaders and city staff donned hard hats last Wednesday night for a guided glimpse of the vast facility.

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"Welcome to your wellness center," said Ken Francois, project manager for Kraus-Anderson Construction Company, as he began the tour in the entryway of the $14.3 million, 52,500 square foot building in southwest Wadena.

First officials scoped out the multi-purpose community rooms and gym. Then Francois took them to the second floor, the soon-to-be home of separate cardio and strength training areas surrounded by a walking track. When the tour continued back downstairs, the visitors checked out the racquetball courts, locker rooms and pool area before weaving their way through the offices.

"It's phenomenal," said Councilman Don Niles, who was appointed to the council just the night before but previously served during the project's planning stages. "It started out as a dream in the face of a disaster."

After the tour, the council heard a construction update and made a few key decisions during a two-hour special meeting in one of the community rooms.

"We're getting very close to being done," Francois told the council.

Major construction is over, while finishing work - installing gym flooring, racquetball court walls, carpeting, etc.- remains.

The facility will open as early as Nov. 1 and as late as Dec. 1, said City Administrator Brad Swenson.

"Believe me, there's still a lot of stuff for Eric (Robb, wellness center director) and the staff to do," Swenson said.

A few changes

After a quick review, the council approved a batch of change orders, some of which the Minnesota Department of Health asked for after an inspection, that increased construction costs by more than $127,000.

Members took a closer look at the final set of potential change orders that, in total, would add another $61,000 to the bill. They only took official action on two of the 11 on the list, agreeing to pay $6,407 to add tile to the whirlpool walls - a project in the blueprints that was inadvertently left out of earlier bids - and to spend $14,600 for epoxy flooring in locker rooms, party rooms, pool entryways and the lifeguard office.

Robb said the more durable surface would pay for itself through reduced maintenance and replacement costs.

By consensus, council members decided against spending $9,200 to tweak the ceiling grids on the second level.

Even when all of the change orders, both approved and potential, are factored in, at least $103,358 remains in the contingency budget, Swenson said.

"That's really good news," Councilwoman Gillette Kempf said.

Finishing touches

The leftover contingency money may prove critical.

Swenson has repeatedly warned the council the original budget of $253,359 for furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) would almost certainly fail to cover all of the needs.

At the meeting last Wednesday, he and Robb - who developed the budget through hours of online price checking and calls to vendors - presented an FFE budget of slightly more than $353,000, a figure that included a $30,000 reserve fund.

To bridge the nearly $100,000 shortfall, they proposed transferring $63,000 from the contingency surplus and another $22,000 from two other funds with excess money, while shrinking the FFE reserve fund to make up the difference.

In unanimous votes, the council unanimously adopted the FFE budget and the transfer.

At $125,000, fitness equipment - treadmills, ellipticals, strength-training machines and other second floor features - is the spendiest category in the FFE budget.

The budget also includes $95,000 for furniture, $78,675 for miscellaneous equipment (snow shovels, lawn mower, floor cleaner, etc.) and $24,375 for athletic equipment (balls, racquets, nets, kickboards, etc.).

"As much as possible, we will buy in town," Swenson said.

The council granted Swenson the authority to, as he put it, "go get quotes, pick the low quotes and get this done."

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