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City moves forward with Hoffman Park storm shelter plans

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News River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.riverfallsjournal.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/field/image/cityhall_5.JPG?itok=j8YTgpdA
River Falls Journal
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City moves forward with Hoffman Park storm shelter plans
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A planned emergency storm shelter for Hoffman Park caused some controversy at the Tuesday, March 11, City Council meeting. The council debated and a majority ultimately approved contracting with Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) for design, engineering and construction management services.

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The council only approved hiring SEH for consulting services Tuesday. At this point, the full project has not been approved.

The city was awarded a FEMA grant in December 2013 to build a safe room in Hoffman Park. It will pay for 87.5 % of the project. With the grant, the city will only pay 12.5% of the full project  cost. The full cost is about $666,471.

SEH is charging a fee not to exceed $59,000. However, consulting services are eligible to be covered by the grant, so the city would pay $7,475 of that fee. 

The storm shelter would be a 3,000 square foot concrete structure, designed to protect people in case of a large storm, such as a tornado. Beyond that, City Administrator Scot Simpson said city employees aren't sure what it will look like, because the design hasn't been completed.

Simpson said the city would like the storm shelter to have other uses, in addition to sheltering people from dangerous storms. The city is looking into option's for additional uses. But, Simpson said some additions to the shelter to accommodate other uses might not be covered by the FEMA grant.

"I think if all it ends up being is a concrete block building that can save 300 people in a severe weather event, then it was worth every penny of this," said council member Diane Odeen.

Council member Jim Nordgren was less inclined to move forward with the project without more information about what the city's options are for the storm shelter construction. He suggested tabling discussion until more information could be gathered. However, a majority of the council voted to approve the contract with SEH.

The Council also:

  • Approved a grant application for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). The city would use the grant money to expand the Kinnickinnic Trail system from Division Street to Winter Street. 
  • Discussed but took no action on a first reading of an ordinance that would allow the police chief to issue temporary "Class B" Beer wine liquor licenses. 

For more city council coverage, please see the March 20 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

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Gretta Stark
Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.
(715) 426-1048
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