Contractors who built the long-anticipated four-season adventure hub at Theodore Wirth Park in north Minneapolis have yet to be paid more than $400,000 for their work.
Built on parkland just north of Hwy. 55, the 14,000-square-foot, $11.6 million Trailhead project is meant to be the premier spot for all things outdoors in the city, including mountain biking and cross-country skiing. It opened to much fanfare in July.
The Trailhead was supposed to be donated by the Loppet Foundation, a nonprofit that works to promote outdoor activities in the city, to the Park Board. But late at Wednesday night’s Park Board meeting, commissioners voted to suspend the partnership until the foundation pays $419,614 it owes to contractors Kalcon LLC for work done from June 2017 to June 2018.
“I’m not going to get into the dispute,” said John Munger, the Loppet’s executive director, acknowledging that the payment hasn’t been made. “You get to the end of a project and there’s sometimes a difference of what it costs … we’re working it out with the contractor.”
Munger added that $40,000 to $50,000 of the larger amount remains in dispute.
Meanwhile, the Park Board is eager to complete the agreement.
“We just have to go through due diligence,” board President Brad Bourn said Thursday. “I don’t have reason to believe the Loppet won’t have this cleared up. I don’t think the Park Board would enter into a partnership with a company that cannot take responsibility.”
Interim Superintendent Mary Merrill said at Wednesday’s meeting that she thought the Loppet had met all conditions by July’s grand opening ceremony and that completion of the agreement was imminent. Foundation staff moved into their offices at the new building around that time, she said.
At their Aug. 29 meeting, park commissioners decided to accept the Trailhead as a donation, which had been their original agreement with the Loppet, under the condition that the board wouldn’t be responsible for a $106,000 water line break that occurred during construction. (That issue is in dispute between the city of Golden Valley and the Loppet, according to the Park Board.) The foundation then was to pay rent consisting of 18 percent of its net income, in addition to $6,500 a year. It also was to maintain some trails and manage equipment rentals and classes.
But earlier this week, Park Board attorney Brian Rice learned that contractors were still owed for completed work.
“Don’t accept [this donation] until the dispute is settled,” Rice advised commissioners Wednesday.
Kalcon, the contractor, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Project years in making
Early this year, Munger told the Star Tribune that the Loppet was taking on much of the risk related to the new facility, making it a good deal for the public.
The project was approved in 2012, but funding problems caused delays. Expenses spiked from $4.5 million to $11.6 million, which included money for trails and improved snow-making equipment.
The foundation, now based at the Trailhead, also is expected to close in October on a building on Dowling Avenue N., according to the local Camden Community News.
“It works well for us, programmatically, as a launching point for the biking, skiing [and] canoeing activities that we do,” Munger told North News.
Under the Park Board-Loppet agreement, the foundation has by Monday to settle the balance. The board will then accept the donation of the Trailhead building.
“This is a unique and large project,” said Commissioner Jono Cowgill said. “This board and the last board has been successful with the Loppet, and we want to continue that as best as we can while protecting the interests of the Park Board.”