City may be excluded from new community center planning

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In 2005 the City of Grand Marais contracted with Burbach Aquatics of Platteville WI to study replacement or renovation of its municipal pool. That contract now may keep the city from participating in planning a new Cook County Community Center that includes a pool.

In a letter to county board chair Jim Johnson, City Administrator Mike Roth writes that if Burbach is not selected to design and oversee construction of a pool in the new community center, the city and its representatives will “withdraw from further participation in the process” as well as participation in the community center steering committee. A reason for non-participation is not given in this or any of the previous three letters sent to the county board.

The contract is “exclusive…for the performance of all the consulting work” on the pool until the project is suspended. The city found construction of a new stand-alone pool would be too expensive; however the project has not been suspended. According to Burbach Aquatics’ attorneys, the contract requires the city to use Burbach on “any repair, renovation or replacement” of the pool, but not for the community center itself.

Since the pool would be an integral part of the community center, this provision is interpreted as effectively excluding the city from participating in planning a facility built within the city, partly for city benefit.

According to a memo from the community center’s steering committee, they intend to use the aquatics firm recommended by the architects they have chosen to design the new facility. A firm has not yet been hired by the county board, thus the aquatics designer is officially not known. If the city chooses to ignore Burbach’s legal opinion they risk a lawsuit with potential damages in excess of $325,000.

The county board is scheduled to discuss the community center with the architecture firm favored by the steering committee. The city will be represented at that Jan. 18 meeting to further press its case.


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