City approves agreement with contractor for inclusive playground project

Published 1:56 pm Wednesday, April 12, 2023

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Albert Lea’s inclusive playground is inching closer to reality.

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved a resolution entering into an agreement with Larson Contracting Central LLC to be the construction manager and purchasing agent for the All Together Albert Lea Inclusive Playground.

A group of residents made up of parents of children with disabilities, as well as special education teachers, therapists and city staff, has been fundraising for the park since fall 2021.

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The playground would be a space that allows everyone, regardless of ability, a chance to play. Inclusive playgrounds are designed not only for individuals with physical disabilities, but also those with autism and other sensory disorders.

The City Council previously voted to support the project with $350,000 of the $1.25 million project. Costs include site preparation, the playground equipment itself, a pour-in-place surfacing and an adjacent parking lot and sidewalk.

The playground will be built at Edgewater Park across from the Edgewater Bay Pavilion.

The fundraising group thus far has raised about $750,000, including the city’s contribution. The city has also applied for a $300,000 grant for the project through the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Larson Contracting will be donating its time as construction manager and will be working with other local companies for groundwork and building of the project. The playground equipment is being purchased through Flagship Recreation, a Minnesota-based playground equipment supplier.

In addition to the Larson Contracting agreement, the council approved a separate agreement with the fundraising group and the Albert Lea Freeborn County Chamber Foundation, which has acted as the nonprofit fiscal agent housing all of the raised funds.

The agreement formalizes the responsibilities of each of the parties regarding raised funds.

The committee continues to raise the remaining funds needed for the project, and the playground, when complete, will be donated to the city.

In other action, the council:

• Accepted the bid for the Fifth Street and Frank Hall Drive reconstruction project happening this summer.

The project includes removal and replacement of pavement, curb and gutter, sidewalk, sanitary sewer, storm sewer and water main on Fifth Street from St. Joseph Avenue to Frank Hall Drive and Frank Hall Drive from Third Street to Fifth Street.

Of the four bids received for the project, Jensen Excavating & Trucking had the low bid of about $1.079 million. The engineer’s estimate was about $1.34 million.

• Authorized a grant agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Local Road Improvement Program for the city to be reimbursed for the building demolition of the former Godfather’s Pizza building for the Main Street project last year and for the design costs for both the stormwater and flood mitigation improvements for the project. The building was demolished to make way for a stormwater pond.

The total costs to be reimbursed are about $182,000.

The city and the state were awarded $2.6 million in state bonding funds for the project, which included a road raise, property acquisition and stormwater pond construction.

• Approved amending the agreement with Northwest Development Group LLC, the group that is redeveloping the former Market Place Foods building at 1619 W. Main St. into the Sky Flats apartments. The agreement extends the substantial completion date from Dec. 31, 2022, to Aug. 31, 2023.

• Approved a sub-agreement with the Shell Rock River Watershed District regarding grant funding received through the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources for about $367,000. Part of the Shell Rock River and Winnebago River Watershed Management Plan includes street sweeping and rain garden funding in the city of Albert Lea. The agreement details the project’s responsibilities and how the city will be reimbursed for these projects.

• Declared Wind Down Wednesday as a community festival.

• Approved the donation of a portable restroom at Thofson Park in Tiger Hills.

• Recognized Josie E. Swenson with a Citizenship Award through the Albert Lea Police Department.
Swenson was nominated by Detective David Miller for her role in helping to record a license plate number in connection to a theft in February.
Public Safety Director J.D. Carlson spoke about how valuable the information was to the case.