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Senior center decision could come Monday

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Over the past few weeks, Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad has been coming up some creative measures to help a proposal to turn the old city hall building into the new Rambling River Center. On Monday, he will find out if it worked.

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Farmington City Council members will look at the proposal Monday for the third time in as many meetings, but this time, they may make a decision on whether to proceed with the project. Questions about how to finance the move and what to do with the present building have stalled the decision, but those blanks are being filled in one by one.

Financing

One of the initial concerns about converting the former city hall building into a new home for Rambling River Center is, not surprisingly, how to pay for it. At first, Distad proposed a levy of $150,000 to $200,000, depending on what could be raised through fund-raising efforts. That would have meant an increase of about $5 in taxes on a home worth $200,000.

However, by allocating $75,000 the city will receive from a future cell phone tower lease agreement to the project, Distad dropped that potential levy amount to $105,000 -- which would mean about $2.50 more in taxes on a $200,000 home.

Distad also compiled a list of approximately 40 individuals and groups from the community who have already expressed interest in donating time and labor to the renovation.

Earlier this month council member Julie May asked for specifics about how the bigger space would be used. According to Rambling River Center coordinator Missie Kohlbeck there 365 ongoing rentals and 18 private rentals for the current building in 2007.

At the same meeting council member Steve Wilson cited the city's recent loss of state aid as a concern, especially if the city is contemplating spending extra money on upgrading the Rambling River Center without knowing how the recent cuts will affect the 2009 and future budgets.

The current site

Senior center members have complained that the current Rambling River Center building is getting to be too small for the number of programs offered to the increasing number of members. But that is not the only driving force behind the push for a new location. The current Rambling River Center building is deteriorating in certain areas.

There are portions of the outside of the building that are crumbling, particularly around the base. Add to that a chance there is mold present, and the building becomes less than desirable -- or healthy.

Distad has proposed to have a structural engineer from the city's architectural firm, Bonestroo, take a look at the current site and determine what can and should be done with it. At the Feb. 17 meeting, Mmyor Todd Larson questioned whether the review could be done by city staff, but Distad said no one on staff has the expertise necessary to make that assessment.

"We really need to have an expert come in and make sure it is structurally sound before we can look at other uses for that building," he said.

Distad initially recommended Bonestroo because the company has worked with that particular building sine it was converted to the senior center more than 25 years ago. However, city staff will get proposals for that part of the project.

If all information is ready by next week's meeting, the Farmington City Council is expected to make a decision on the project.

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