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City of Cloquet's sand-bottom pond to resurface

It took an amendment from the Minnesota State Legislature and design bids from two firms, the restoration of the sand-bottom pond is officially under way.

It took an amendment from the Minnesota State Legislature and design bids from two firms, the restoration of the sand-bottom pond is officially under way.

In May, the Minnesota Senate passed an amendment introduced by legislators Tony Lourey and Bill Hilty, giving Cloquet city officials the green light to repair the sand-bottom pond originally built more than 30 years ago. Lourey and Hilty worked with the Minnesota Department of Health on the amendment for the pond, in which Lourey described the facility as "unique and interesting."

The amendment stemmed from a letter from the Minnesota Department of Health to Cloquet officials last year that stated they would not approve any swimming facility with sand incorporated into the design.

Thanks to the legislative ruling, the city will not have to involve the Minnesota Department of Health in its plans to restore the pond, according to Brian Fritsinger, city administrator.

After learning that the amendment was likely to pass, Cloquet City Council members in April charged Fritsinger with requesting proposals to design and engineer the project. Two firms, Barr Engineering Company and USAquatics, submitted bids by Tuesday's deadline. A committee made up of city officials, representatives from the city council, Parks Commission, Cloquet Community Education and the Pinehurst Park neighborhood group reviewed the bids at a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

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They plan to interview both firms early next week. USAquatics gave a $2,800 estimate for phase one design work, while Barr gave a list of their costs per employee per hour. Final design, engineering and construction costs are yet to be determined, Fritsinger said.

An estimate prepared by the Pinehurst Park neighborhood group gave some $1.1 million as the cost to restore the facility to working order.

City council member and committee member Neil Nemmers said the groups are committed to the project, as long as the cost doesn't grossly depart from that estimate.

"We'll work as hard as we can to achieve the goal of opening by June 2009," he said.

The committee members acknowledged, however, that several factors, from weather to financing, could keep that from happening. Only one of the two proposals includes a 2009 opening as well. USAquatics' timeline meets the 2009 goal, but Barr's plan calls for the pond to open in 2010.

After the interviews with each firm, committee members expect to make a recommendation to the city council within a few days. Financing will be looked at more closely as the project's scope develops, Fritsinger said.

The swimming facility, located in Pinehurst Park, has been closed since 2005.

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