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Wellness Center whirlpool a go

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The Wadena City Council on Monday voted unanimously to add a spa/whirlpool design to the Regional Wellness Center plans following a grassroots petition in support of the idea.

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According to an email from Mike Brandt, one of the architects in charge of planning the center, construction of the spa/whirlpool will add anywhere from an estimated $250,000 to $260,000 to the cost of building the center. The city council voted for this option as a choice between two designs for the spa/whirlpool that were presented by building planners. The design the city council chose is larger and involves adding to the size of the wellness center building itself by an estimated 600 square feet, whereas the less costly smaller version does not require additional space. However, choosing the smaller version and trying to fit it within the existing Wellness Center building area  would have eliminated the planned steam room as well as made for a smaller sauna. Brandt described the resulting room layout as “very tight” in the email. The smaller version would have cost from $105,000 to $110,000 to construct, according to Brandt’s estimate.

In addition to construction costs, the whirlpool also poses more operational costs for the center once everything is finally built, according to an analysis done by consulting firm Ballard, King and Associates. Jeff King, president of BKA, said in an email that the spa/whirlpool will cost from $15,888 to $34,222 to operate annually, a large portion of which comes from lifeguard staffing expenses. King did not delineate between the two whirlpool size options in his operating cost estimates. City Administrator Brad Swenson said the lower estimate was more likely to be the case, as the higher estimate assumes the whirlpool will have its own lifeguard.

In a letter to the Wadena City Council, the Wellness Center Fundraising Committee vowed to raise enough donations to cover the added expense of installing a larger whirlpool, even if it meant committee members personally chipping in more money.

“Based on letters of intent, pledges that are still outstanding, grant applications that have only recently been sent out and conversations with existing donors, our committee is quite comfortable making this fundraising commitment,” the letter said. “The primary group of initial donors, including members of the fundraising committee, would be willing to sign letters of commitment to make up any shortfall in fundraising from other sources.”  

A fundraising campaign summary compiled by Jeff Browne, co-chair of the committee, said they have so far raised approximately  $10,976,000. Of that total sum of money raised; about $2.3 million is from private donors alone.     

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