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City will pay $1 million for arena repairs

The promise of warmer weather and sunny days in the months ahead hasn't distracted the Farmington City Council from making sure there's ice available come next fall.

On Monday, the council gave the go-ahead on several portions of an improvement project for the Schmitz-Maki Ice Arena to get it up and running by next year's hockey season.

Though there was some good news when it came to the bids on certain parts of the project, council members were still concerned the plans do not include a lot of help from the community.

In past discussions, council members have expressed an interest in getting volunteers to help with some parts of the ice arena project, which includes replacing the building's ice system and replacing the dasher boards in the building. The concept worked well in defraying costs when the old city hall was renovated into the current site for the Rambling River Center. Farmington seniors volunteered hundreds of hours to do the work.

There were quite a few people who were willing to help with the arena, too. Members of the Farmington Youth Hockey Association offered up their help as a sort of in-kind payment to offset some of the costs for the building's improvements.

When the project came before the council Monday, though, the recommendation did not that include any contributions from the community.

Bids for the project came in at $1.022 million, about $135,000 less than estimates. The lowest bidder for the ice system replacement was Total Mechanical Services, while Becker Arena Products submitted the lowest bid for the dasher boards. A third portion of the project, installation of a dehumidification system, was put on hold because Farmington's arena is not used during the summer months.

But the ice arena project is a bit trickier than painting a few walls or staining doors.

"That was removing ceiling tiles versus removing concrete," Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad said.

That's where the problem lies. As part of the floor removal, the contractor will have to bring in large saws that workers are carefully trained to use. The concrete is cut into 8x8-foot chunks that weigh several thousand pounds. It is loaded onto a flatbed to be towed away. And because the contractor has to insure the workers, it's not likely the work can be done by volunteers.

In light of that, a member of the hockey association spoke during the meeting, indicating they have decided to make a 10-year financial commitment to the project. They will vote on that amount at their April 14 meeting.

There has been talk of the Farmington School District sharing some of the project's cost but there was no information available this week about whether the district will pay.

Council members approved the contracts with Total Mechanical Services and Becker Arena Products, though council member Christy Jo Fogarty still wants to find a way to incorporate volunteer hours in the project.

"Let me be perfectly clear: I want every single opportunity explored to reduce the cost of this project," she said.

The project should be completed by mid-September, which gives time for ice to be installed in time the beginning of the hockey season.

Council members approved the contracts on a 3-2 vote, with members Julie May and Terry Donnelly casting the dissenting votes. Donnelly called the project a band-aid that does not address the city's long-term ice needs.

Afterward, the council authorized the sale of $1 million in bonds to cover the cost of the project. The city will pay $160,000 per year over a 10-year span.

Council members also hired the consulting engineering firm of Bonestroo to act as the construction manager of the project. Distad recommended the company because it has been involved through the designing and planning phases of the project, and the staff have an understanding of the council's expectations for the ice arena.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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