City to pave way for Arc space expansion

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Plans for a new local Arc site and Mower County Senior Center renovations will proceed as hoped, with the city council approving a new lease agreement that will make way for $661,760 in improvements paid through a Hormel Foundation grant.

“They have assured me 100 percent that this will meet their needs,” foundation treasurer Jerry Anfinson said of plans, which include a $5,000-square-foot addition to the Senior Center building.

City council members approved the new lease agreement with Mower County Seniors Inc. 6-1, with only John Martin, 3rd Ward, dissenting, in front of an audience for about two dozen at the council meeting Tuesday. Main concerns from council members were primarily increased occupancy expenses that will result in $10,000 in repair and utility costs annually, in addition to the $35,000 already provided by Austin. Mower County contributes a second $35,000 for operations.

Email newsletter signup

“I guess, as Mr. Anfinson said, this is the right thing to do,” 1st ward council member Brian McAlister said. “I have concerns about the additional expenses of this expansion.”

He noted that, particularly in regards to utilities, some costs will be unpredictable in the coming years.

Anfinson and director of administrative services Tom Dankert said, however, that the renovations planned on the senior center will eliminate capital improvements budgeted, including a new roof and handicapped bathrooms, over the next several years.

“I think we’ll have some existing needs met,” Anfinson said.

He added that both organizations have agreed to assume janitorial services once the projects are complete.

The Hormel Foundation was approached about the new space for Arc Mower County, which provides programming and advocacy to residents with disabilities and their families, earlier this year by the organization.

Arc was displaced from its Main Street location near the YMCA after the floods of 2004, and has since shared the senior center facility. Limited space and scheduling has led to some deterioration of services to the chagrin of coordinators.

Anfinson said their presentation pushed foundation members to consider a large-scale proposal that would include $569,500 for a new Arc site and $92,260 for Senior Center renovations. The addition will be built on the southeast corner of the building off the parking lot, and will include a separate entrance, office space, bathrooms and more.

The two organizations will continue to share the kitchen and banquet hall.

Anfinson told council members that they could keep any unspent money, seek more if needed and count on continued funding from the Hormel Foundation for other projects annually.

“It will in no way affect any of your future requests to the foundation,” he said.

The money would be available as soon as needed for construction, which Anfinson said he hoped would begin next year.

The city will handle bids, construction oversight and other renovation demands.