WALKER - Cass County Board Tuesday tried to pick up the pace on a purchase agreement with the state to buy Ah-Gwah-Ching property and begin demolition and work to connect to Walker city utilities.
Administrator Robert Yochum told the board he expects the Legislature likely will approve the state bonding bill the last three days of this year's session before adjourning May 19. Gov. Tim Pawlenty will have until June 2 to approve or veto part or all of that bill.
The bill is expected to contain state funding to enable the county to complete demolition and utility connections to the city.
If the state fails to authorize 100 percent demolition and utility funding, the county commissioners have said they will not proceed with the purchase.
All current state hospital residents at Ah-Gwah-Ching are scheduled to move to other facilities by April 5, Yochum said. County officials plan to meet with state officials in St. Paul this month to clarify which staff will remain at the facility to maintain building operating services until the county assumes ownership and to be sure the county has completed all state forms required to complete the purchase if the purchase proceeds.
Assuming the state funding is approved, the county board would approve documents related to easements, acres sold and annexation filings by April 15, most existing utilities would be shut off May 9, current Ah-Gwah-Ching staff would leave May 20 and the sale would take place June 2.
The demolition contractor would move onto the site as soon as the state and county sign sale papers and would work toward an Oct. 31 completion date.
Bids for utility work would be due by Aug. 25. On Sept. 2, contracts would be awarded and utility work to connect the site to city of Walker sewer and water services would begin, with the water main site completed Nov. 1 and full connections to city services available by June 15, 2009.
While the city of Walker owns the right-of-way to connect city services to Ah-Gwah-Ching, the current right-of-way is too narrow, Yochum told the board. The commissioners indicated they expect the city to negotiate right-of-way widening easements ahead of construction work.
In related action Tuesday, the board selected low bidder CAM of Brainerd from among six firms to serve as construction manager for a county court services building to be built at Ah-Gwah-Ching if the county buys that land. CAM's bid ran about $80,000 lower than the other firm the county interviewed a second time.
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