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Ramsey County approves $15M budget for demo project

The Ramsey County board on Tuesday put more money into the budget for demolition of the former Government Center West and Ramsey County Adult Detention Center buildings along the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul.

County commissioners approved an $11.5 million budget for the project last fall, but they had to increase that to $15 million after bids came in higher than expected. St. Michael-based Rachel Contracting submitted the low bid of $13.13 million in May.

The county’s new budget includes $14.6 million from its capital projects fund and a $429,000 loan from the general fund. With the new budget, the county will have enough money to cover the higher demolition costs, plus contingency.

Lee Mehrkens, the county’s chief financial officer, said at Tuesday’s county board meeting that the county expects to recoup some of the money after the property along Shepard Road and Kellogg Boulevard is sold.

The former Government Center West complex, also known as the old West Publishing site, and the one-time county jail encompass more than 700,000 square feet of space along the river.

The buildings have been vacant since 2013.

County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt said Tuesday that the higher cost of deconstructing the buildings is a reflection of the improving economy.

“There’s a lot of vibrancy going on now, but that means it costs more,” she said. “In previous projects, we were able to bring things in under budget because there were issues with the economy.”

Reinhardt said the county “looked into every possible reuse” for the buildings, including using the complex to house homeless people. But every prospective developer said there were “too many unknowns,” she added.

“It served West Publishing. It served the county very well,” Reinhardt said. “But it had gotten to the point where it really wasn’t something that could be repurposed. … We made the decision to not just let it sit there and cost us money.”


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