County breaks ground for new building

Carlton County WIC (Women, Infants and Children) coordinator Kathy Blais currently operates the program, which provides nutritional support for low-income women, infants and children, out of a couple of closet-sized spaces that aren't large enoug...

ceremonial shovelfuls
Turning over the first ceremonial shovelfuls of earth for Carlton County's new Community Services Building are (from left) Cloquet City Councilor Herb Johnson, County Commissioner Dick Brenner, Boldt Construction General Manager Ron Hanson, City Councilor Deb Hill, Carlton County Economic Development Director Pat Oman, County Commissioner Marvin Bodie, Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren, County Commissioner Tom Proulx, Carlton County Facilities Chair Mike Stafford and Carlton County Health and Human Services ...

Carlton County WIC (Women, Infants and Children) coordinator Kathy Blais currently operates the program, which provides nutritional support for low-income women, infants and children, out of a couple of closet-sized spaces that aren't large enough to accommodate an entire family.

"We do the best we can with the space we have," said Blais, referring to the program's quarters on the second floor of the Carlton County Public Health Building. She added, however, that there is no dedicated waiting room space for the 25-30 families who sometimes visit in a single day's time.

"If a mom and dad with twins in car seats should happen to come into our exam room space," she gave as a further example, "there's not even room to walk."

Blais has been with the program for the past 22 years and was understandably excited about the prospect of a new Carlton County Community Services Center following Monday's ground-breaking ceremony in downtown Cloquet.

When the new building is completed next summer, Blais said the WIC program will not only have a dedicated waiting room space with enclosed walls and a play area for children and their siblings, but also a series of exam rooms to help expedite the process.


"At present, we only have two WIC staff members because there simply isn't room for three," said Blais. "Now, we will be able to accommodate that number if the need is there."

Monday's ground-breaking for the new Community Services Center was short on words but long on the same type of enthusiasm expressed by Blais.

"We've been working on this project for the last four years," said Carlton County Board Chair Marvin Bodie, "and I truly believe we've come up with the right building, at the right price, that will serve the needs of the community."

The only other person to speak at the afternoon ceremony was Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren, who voiced appreciation for the county's selection of Cloquet as the location for the new building.

"So many cities are faced with the need for downtown revitalization in order to keep jobs in the area," said Ahlgren. "There is no question this is a fantastic asset, not only for the county but for the city of Cloquet."

At that, a group of representatives of city and county government, as well as the construction and engineering firms, donned the traditional hard hats and shovels and turned over the first spades of dirt on the site where the 40,000-square-foot building will be standing at this time next summer.

If all goes according to schedule, Bodie said, the building will open in July 2011, with only parking lot work left to be completed. The plan is for county employees to remain in their current offices until the new Community Services Center is finished.

The new building will essentially replace two aging county facilities that currently house the county's public health and human services buildings and combine them under one roof, including social services, public health, the W.I.C. clinic, child services, the workforce center, income maintenance, veteran's services and motor vehicle services. The old human services building will be razed to provide parking space adjacent to the new building.


Wold Architects and Engineers of St. Paul

designed the new building following sustainable and energy efficient guidelines outlined by the U.S. Green Building Council and is seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, making it the first LEED project built in the city of Cloquet.

County commissioners last week approved the hiring of Oscar J. Boldt Construction of Cloquet as the general contractor for the project following a "Best Value Contractor" bidding and hiring process based on price, project approach, project and team experience, LEED experience and challenge assessments.

According to materials provided by Boldt to attendees at Monday's ground-breaking ceremony, some of the sustainable features of the new building will include use of low-flow plumbing fixtures to reduce water consumption, high-efficiency HVAC systems, recycling of construction waste, at least partial use of regional building materials, implementation of a comprehensive "green" cleaning/housekeeping program, selection of refrigerants and systems that minimize or eliminate the emission of ozone-depleting compounds and installation of bicycle storage and changing rooms to encourage use of alternative transportation.

"This has been a long time coming," concluded Blais, "and I'm excited to be a part of it."

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