By Dan Linehan
---- — WASECA – The city of Waseca has begun a $2.41 million conversion of a shuttered grocery store into its public safety building.
A slew of state and federal officials visited on Tuesday for a groundbreaking that highlighted the U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that’s funding the project.
Preliminary construction began Friday on the consolidation of the police and fire departments, which also will free up space for other city departments to stretch their legs a bit. The city paid $290,000 to buy the former grocery store and four acres of land.
The $2.37 million loan, from the agriculture department’s community facilities fund, is attractive to the city because its 40-year repayment schedule breaks the annual payments into smaller chunks, Waseca Finance Director Nathan Reinhardt said. The city’s annual payment is $111,500.
The 3.5 percent interest rate is relatively low, he said, and the city can pay the loan off early with no penalties.
The city has been struggling with a lack of space for several years, Waseca Police Chief Penny Vought said. For example, the evidence room is in the basement, and it’s a pain to lug, say, a television up and down the stairs.
“We are very much looking forward to being housed with the fire department,” she said. “I think we have a very good relationship with them.”
After the new space is renovated, which is expected to happen by the end of this year, the parks department can move into what is now the fire station.
Thanks to a $400,000 grant from the Department of Justice, the Public Safety Building will also include a “safe haven visitation and exchange center,” a place where parents can exchange or visit with their children. Vought said the center will benefit families dealing with custody conflicts, domestic violence, stalking and harassment.
The public safety building also will have a community room. The existing building has a similar room in its basement, but you have to go down steps to get there so it’s not accessible by people with disabilities.