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Residents react to building plans

A facility for Gold Cross is planned at 109 West Ave. near Central Park. The project is slated to come before the Albert Lea Planning Commission on Tuesday. – Provided

Mayo Clinic proposes new Albert Lea Gold Cross facility

Mayo Clinic’s plan for a more than $2 million facility for Albert Lea Gold Cross is being met with apprehension from local residents.

The approximately $2.2 million, 8,100-square foot facility would be at 109 West Ave. on the campus of Mayo Clinic Health System near Central Park and would house office and training space, crew quarters and ambulance space.

The plan is set to come before the Albert Lea Planning Commission at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and, if approved, come before the City Council for final approval March 13. Construction could start in April and be finished this fall.

The cost of the project is expected to be paid for by Mayo Clinic.

“No taxpayer dollars will be used to build this facility,” said Kristofer Keltgen, Gold Cross regional manager of operations.

The central location of the new facility would be positive for response times and efficiency, Keltgen said. Ambulance operations in Albert Lea are in the emergency department at the hospital. Office space for Gold Cross is in another building on campus, and meeting and training space is at the former Bonnerup Funeral & Cremation Service. Garage space for Gold Cross is provided by a private party.

“There needs to be a single consolidated facility so we can more efficiently respond to calls,” Keltgen said.

Pamela Slette, of 409 W. Clark St., said though she respects first responders, she does not support the plan.

“I have all respect for what they are doing, but I think it is being put in the wrong place,” she said.

She said she is concerned that the site could lead to issues when people leave neighborhood churches after dark.

“I think it is dangerous,” Slette said. “I think it could be a disaster.”

Slette suggested building the facility on other property the hospital owns to avoid it being placed in the center of the city.

“I cannot understand the thinking that puts the building right in the center of town,” she said.

Keltgen said the project is essential for the community’s health, safety and welfare and will address the growth in call volumes at Gold Cross and projected staff increases.

The new facility would have a projected lifespan of at least 40 years and will not significantly increase neighborhood congestion, Keltgen said.

Keltgen expects area land values to increase from development of the property, and he said the city of Albert Lea will see an increase in tax revenue.

According to Keltgen, the facility will exceed the energy code, feature LED lighting, have in-floor heating and be cost effective to operate.

Neighborhood resident and property manager Robert Hoffman said the building will affect scenic views in the area.

“Having ambulances coming and going a lot from the neighborhood does affect the quality of living for the houses near here, but it’s honestly no different than already living next to the hospital,” he said. “It is a pretty vista looking over Central Park down into the neighborhoods that’s around the former high school site, and that will be lost with this cheap garage being built in the middle of it all.”

Hoffman said he hopes the Albert Lea Fire Department communicates with Gold Cross to share costs on a new campus for both entities. City officials are discussing moving the fire station from City Hall to obtain more space for operations. 

Gold Cross is a not-for-profit subsidiary of Mayo Clinic. The ambulance service in Albert Lea integrated with Gold Cross on March 1, 2013.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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