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Bonding bill could fund big projects at the PACC

The Perham Area Community Center could be undergoing some major improvements and enhancements, if the city gets lucky and is approved for state bonding.

This week, city leaders plan to submit a request to the Minnesota Legislature to consider including a capital outlay project for the PACC in its 2013 bonding package.

At press time, media outlets were reporting that a generous state bonding bill was possible in 2013. Though large capital investment bills usually occur in even-numbered years, lawmakers are considering one in this upcoming session due to DFL control of both chambers of the Legislature.

No specifics have been discussed yet, however, and it's too soon to know how big the bonding bill might be. A typical odd-year bonding bill is in the range of $500 million.

So while funding is far from guaranteed, by submitting its request, Perham is giving itself the chance to receive roughly $1.3 million in state funds - half the cost of a proposed $2.56 million project at the PACC. If the city gets that funding, it will be expected to cover the other half.

The proposed project includes a two-story major addition onto the front of the PACC, an expanded parking lot to the south, a new field house floor, a new ceiling over the pool, improvements to the weight room, and a lot more.

The capital improvements included in the proposal are already part of the PACC's five-year plan and would eventually need to be done regardless of state funding, city leaders said at a meeting last week. A bonding bill would allow these improvements to be done sooner than expected.

The large addition and some other major enhancements included in the proposal are not a part of the five-year plan; state bonding would be an opportunity to make these things happen, and soon. Barring a bonding bill, these parts of the project will not be considered until "far out into the future," according to City Manager Kelcey Klemm.

These include a $1.4 million expansion of the PACC's entryway and cardio and aerobics areas, $375,000 in improvements to the fitness and free weight area, and other enhancements intended to accommodate continued growth and demand at the center.

In the proposal, city leaders say there is a need to make improvements to the 23-year-old PACC facility, and to expand to meet the needs of ongoing membership growth and an aging population. The PACC now has about 1,500 members. It was last expanded in 1995, paid for entirely with donated local funds.

Klemm said he's not sure what the city's odds are of being included in a 2013 bonding package.

"There are a lot of high profile projects out there that didn't get funded (with the last bonding bill)," he said. "Chances depend on how much is allocated. It's always a competitive process... If there's any movement on this bonding bill, we need to get support from our local legislators and try to get our project on the funding."