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Gold Cross breaks ground on $2M building

Gold Cross first responders broke ground Tuesday on a more than $2 million facility in Albert Lea.

The planned 8,100-square foot facility will be at 109 West Ave., on the campus of Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea near Central Park. The facility will house office and training space, crew quarters and ambulance space.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place after the Albert Lea City Council last month approved Mayo Clinic’s plan for the Gold Cross building.

Dozens of law enforcement officials, first responders, business and government leaders and local residents attended the ceremony.

Trish Gathje, supervisor of operations at Albert Lea Gold Cross, described her connection with the hospital.

“It’s with great enthusiasm today that we are going to break ground on a new building,” she said.

Kristofer Keltgen, Gold Cross ambulance operations manager and construction project coordinator, thanked partners that have assisted Gold Cross so far in the project. He emphasized that Gold Cross is using several local companies for the project, including Clarks Grove-based Jensen Excavating & Trucking and Albert Lea companies Ulland Brothers Inc. and Overhead Door Co.

Keltgen said assuming construction starts before May 8, completion and occupancy of the building should be completed around Oct. 1.

Keltgen said the state-of-the-art facility is expected to have a 45-year lifespan, support five ambulances and support up to 36 employees.

“We’re very excited,” he said.

The Rev. John Mitchem of United Methodist Church gave an invocation and blessing.

Paul Drucker, senior director of Mayo Clinic medical transport, discussed the values of Gold Cross.

“Anything that is done well, that is sustainable, is done together,” he said.

According to a press release, Mayo Clinic is making a substantial capital investment into its ambulance operations in the city by building the $2.2 million facility.

“The scale of the project represents Mayo Clinic’s ongoing commitment to the community and providing advanced life-support emergency care,” the press release states. “The new home for ambulance operations is the result of an extensive study of the rising number of requests for paramedic care and needs for the community. Gold Cross has outgrown the current facility, and the new location of the new space will be in close proximity to the hospital and more centrally located.”

Keltgen said the facility will consolidate ambulance services that are at four locations.

The press release states the new facility is designed to be energy efficient, will complement the neighborhood and is not expected to result in additional traffic or noise issues from emergency vehicles. The site for the building is owned by Mayo Clinic, and the facility will be privately funded.

“This project demonstrates Mayo Clinic and Gold Cross’ long-term commitment to Albert Lea as well as residents and visitors to the area who one day may need the care of a paramedic in an emergency situation,” Keltgen said in the release.

Steve Waldhoff, administrator at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, discussed the history of Mayo Clinic in Albert Lea and thanked Drucker for his work.

Albert Lea Director of Public Safety Dwaine Winkels discussed the number of lives saved by police officers and credited training by Gold Cross employees. He said the facility is needed.

“I love it, so thank you very much,” Winkels said.

Gold Cross has made changes to the planned facility since it was introduced. The changes were made after safety concerns were made by local residents, and requests for a more scenic building were made at an Albert Lea Planning Commission meeting in March. Additional bricks and revised garage doors have been added to plans to increase the facility’s aesthetics on the building’s east side. Light fixtures and brick with medallion work are planned on the south side of the facility.

Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Randy Kehr said the facility will be a great addition to the community that will consolidate resources and increase services, safety and tax base in the community.

Neighborhood resident Pauline Johnson, who attended the ceremony, said she is excited about the new facility. She has lived in the neighborhood for 59 years and has had a family member whose life was saved by first responders.

“We welcome them with open arms,” she said. “My brother was one of the saves that they made, so, very excited to have them to be able to respond to the community so quickly from one spot.”

Johnson said she does not view noise or the nearby hospital as concerns.

“This was our choice to live in this area, and I’m really excited to welcome them here,” she said.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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