County commissioners were informed on Feb. 6 that deconstruction (selective dismantlement) of the now-empty Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center (RTC) will commence this winter.

The good news, according to Fergus Falls City Administrator Andrew Bremseth, is that the city plans to keep the main tower as a permanent reminder of the community's history.

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To the west of the landmark tower is the County Government Services Center.

"We appreciate hearing first hand about your plans," said County Board Chairman Wayne Johnson to Bremseth.

Since 2007 the city has pursued several RTC development proposals. Unfortunately, none of the proposals (including shopping centers, hotels and restaurants) had the financial resources to take on a project of this magnitude.

Three buildings and campus tunnels will be part of Phase I deconstruction that will begin shortly and be completed in the spring of 2018.

Cost of Phase I is $1.4 million.

The city has worked collaboratively with the state Historic Preservation Office to ensure that deconstruction procedures adhere to state and federal laws.

The city of Fergus Falls is seeking $8.9 million from the state legislature to complete deconstruction on remaining sections of the RTC campus which includes 550,000 square feet of space on the northside of Fergus Falls.

The Regional Treatment Center was originally built in 1890 by the state of Minnesota to house 3,500 patients with mental illness. During the 1950s and 1960s that number was reduced to close to 2,000 residents, cared for by 500 state employees.

The building which currently houses the County Government Services Center was formerly part of the RTC. In 2003 the county acquired the building, remodeled the facility, and moved several offices from crowded quarters at the courthouse located just south of downtown Fergus Falls.

Some county offices remain at the courthouse.

Two buildings on the east side of the RTC campus were renovated into apartments and a third building nearby will be renovated this summer.