Groundbreaking for Cook County Family YMCA December 10

Rhonda Silence

After many stops and starts and studies, the ground will be broken on Monday, December 10 to officially begin construction of the new Cook County Family YMCA. At 1 p.m. representatives of all the entities involved in the project— Cook County, the City of Grand Marais, School District 166 and the Duluth Area YMCA—will gather for a groundbreaking ceremony.

Announcing the groundbreaking was Wade Cole of ORB Management, the county’s owner’s representative for this and several other projects funded by the county’s 1 percent recreation and infrastructure tax. Inviting the public to this event, Cole said, “This project represents a unique partnership and a culmination of several years of planning to create a facility which will serve as an anchor for community recreation and wellness for both residents and visitors of Cook County.”

Discussion of changes to the Cook County Community Center grounds began as long ago as 1999 when a group of community members met with thencounty commissioner Bob Fenwick to discuss the possibility of a sales tax to fund recreational facilities in the county. That discussion led to the creation of the Community Center Revitalization Committee and the hiring of the Center for Changing Landscapes to create a plan for the site, which was approved by the county commissioners in fall 2006. At that time the community sought space for additional tennis courts, ball fields, skateboard park, a better basketball court, large animal evacuation/horse arena space, and space set aside for additions to the building to accommodate dancers, conventions, etc.

In December 2006, a swimming pool committee was formed and that group asked the Revitalization Committee to go back to the drawing board to consider space for a new pool at the community center site. Concurrently, the Cook County Economic Analysis Council produced a study on the economy and tourism, detailing why the county needed funding for tourism. The economic council was also interested in a sales tax to fund some tourism projects.

Studies continued in 2008 when Mike Fischer of LHB was hired to work with officials from the city, school, Grand Portage and townships to determine the best use of a 1 percent sales tax if it were approved by the Minnesota legislature and the voters.

The Minnesota legislature approved the law that allowed a voter referendum on whether ornottoenacta1percent recreation and infrastructure sales tax early in 2009.

At a county board meeting in July 2009, the county board fine-tuned its list of proposed projects and dollar amounts. At that time the list included: $3.0 million for a county recreation complex in Grand Marais; $1.5 million for the Birch Grove recreation complex; $900,000 for Superior National at Lutsen golf course improvements; $9.2 million for countywide broadband infrastructure; $800,000 for the Grand Marais Public Library; and $12.0 million for the Cook County Community Center.

In August 2009, the county board voted to pursue those projects if the referendum was passed. The referendum passed in November 2009 and the county began collecting the 1 percent recreation and infrastructure tax on April 1, 2010.

Planning began in earnest at that time, with many changes to the projects and monies allocated to each back in 2009. The latest rendition of the Cook County Community Center calls for a $9.5 million facility to be operated by the YMCA.

Officials from the various government entities as well as members of the Cook County Community Center Steering Committee will be on hand to celebrate the beginning of the project construction.

The Cook County High School band has been invited to play and refreshments will be available. Everyone is invited to come and join in the celebration.

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