NEW ULM — The preliminary soil borings at the Recreation Center for proposed Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) projects proved promising, but the location to the Dome Facility remains in question.
The RENU Oversight Committee met Thursday evening to discuss updates.
Before the RENU projects can begin, a location must be determined for each project. The early plan for the RENU projects was to locate the aquatics expansion, gymnastic facility and fitness and playground area on the Recreation Center grounds. To make these additions to the Recreation Center feasible, a preliminary soil boring test was needed. If the ground could not support additional structures, a new location would be needed.
Facilities Maintenance Supervisor Ryan Weier informed the committee the borings showed it was feasible to locate these projects at the Rec Center with minimal soil corrections. Weier said the only area of concern was the area directly north of the Rec Center. The further from the Summit Street hill, the more unstable the soil.
Weier said the land near the Center Street and Garden Street intersection has the most unstable soil. Specifically, this land was once a swamp and swamp deposits remain in this location. These deposits would need to be removed to support construction. Pylon footings could be put into the foundation to mitigate the soil issues, but this would increase the cost.
The Rec Center building required soil correction prior to construction. Weier said the soil boring conducted indicated the soil correction originally performed for the Rec Center was still intact. He said over the course of 30 years, a soil correction could be undone, but in this case the soil remained intact.
Committee Chair Toby Freier said he was prepared for a negative report and was happy to see the soil tests had gone in RENU’s favor.
In other news, the design services for the Johnson Park improvement project were received. The committee obtained two quotes, with the low quote coming from ISG at $79,000. Staff recommended moving forward with ISG for this project and the committee voted in favor forwarding the ISG quote onto the city council.
The committee discussed issues related to the usage of the Gymnastic Center. The original plan was to have NUAGA and Turner Hall merge and operate out of the new facility. There were questions related to maintenance costs and rental of the facility. City Attorney Roger Hippert wanted to see numbers on the cost to operate the gymnastic facility and potential maintenance cost, to give the council an idea of the budget for operation.
City council member Lisa Fischer agreed cost estimates will be needed for the city to properly cover expenses. Fischer said she believed the council was aware the gym facility would require a subsidy from the city but a business plan was needed before moving forward.
Weier said the first question of designing the gym would be “what do you want?” Before incurring any design costs on the project, the committee should have cost estimates to determine what could or should be built.
The Oversight Committee is continuing to seek options for the location of the Dome Facility. Originally, the plan was to locate the dome at the new High School, but this location proved unfeasible. During the previous Oversight meeting in June, the fairgrounds were considered as an option. Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz informed the committee the Fair Board gave a verbal statement that they are not interested in having the dome at the fairgrounds.
Another option for the dome is Martin Luther College (MLC), which has expressed interest in having a dome in the community. MLC would certainly be interested in renting space in a multiple-purpose dome facility. MLC has been moving forward with locating their dome on their property and could be interested in partnering with New Ulm.
City Manager Brian Gramentz said there were similar discussions of partnering with MLC on a dome six years ago, but this would involve using public money to build a facility on land owned by a religious organization.
One option would be for the city to buy the land from MLC to maintain ownership of the dome. This would ensure the city could control usage of the dome, rather than another organization determine who uses the dome and when.
The committee will continue to look into a partnership with MLC while seeking out additional options for locating the dome.
The request for proposals for construction management services should be submitted Sept. 12 and received by Oct. 17.