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County pavilion exemption sought

Published (4/10/2009)
By Kris Berggren
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Redwood County residents could have more space for summertime class reunions, wedding receptions and church picnics.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) and Sen. Dennis Frederickson (R-New Ulm) sponsor a bill that would allow the upgrade of a popular picnic shelter to accommodate larger groups.

As amended by House language, HF1946/SF1477* would allow an exemption to the state building code so the pavilion may be remodeled without a costly sprinkler system that would ordinarily be required. Plans call for the 36-by-76 foot building to be enlarged by 10 feet, an accessible restroom added and a fire alarm system and other safety features installed. The building has no stoves or heating, although slow-cooking devices may be used.

The county has already raised $150,000 in private funds and seeks no funding, but only a code exemption to save it the $75,000 sprinkler system price tag, which would put the project on hold.

Approved April 3 by the House Labor and Consumer Protection Division, the bill awaits action by the House Commerce and Labor Committee. It was approved 62-0 by the Senate March 23.

Division members were concerned whether large groups of people would be able to exit the building in the unlikely event of a fire, as its garage-style doors are often kept closed on windy days. However, they were comfortable with an amendment offered by Rep. Loren Solberg (DFL-Grand Rapids) that would require a written exemption by the state fire marshal, who would inspect and approve the building plan.

Visitor numbers to the site and its surrounding grounds of the historic Gilfillan Estate have increased from about 6,000 people in 1998 to 13,000 last year. Seifert said the pavilion is used by thousands of people every summer during Farm Fest, a large regional agricultural festival; the Redwood County Relay for Life, a cancer charity event; and many local reunions and social events.

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