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Aging infrastructure at DECC in desperate need of an upgrade

Dec 08, 2021 05:42AM ● By Editor
Photo: DECC

By Quinn Gorham of KBJR-TV - December 7, 2021

Executive Director of the DECC, Dan Hartman, gave a presentation to Duluth’s City Council on Monday and talked extensively about the convention center’s aging infrastructure. In July, an ammonia leak shut the DECC’s curling club down overnight as fire crews cleared out the building.

The ammonia leak prompted DECC leaders to investigate the building’s pipes and electrical systems. According to Hartman, they found several systems were out of date.

Hartman said the building has roughly $8 million worth of deferred maintenance. With projected revenue of around $780,000 next year, Hartman recognizes the high price tag on those repairs.

The DECC currently has around $2 million in reserve money, but they hope to use that for hiring and training employees coming out of the pandemic. Hartman said they’re exploring other options to help fund the repairs.

“We are probably pushing forward with a bonding request from the state of Minnesota this year to help address some of these needs as they continue,” he said.

Hartman said the DECC’s operational costs each year operate at a deficit. Tourism tax allocations from the city help push the DECC’s yearly revenue into the positive. Hartman said in an interview Tuesday that the ammonia leak at the Duluth Curling Club in July prompted them to hire an outside inspector to assess the rest of their systems.

They identified issues with rusted pipes, old airways and outdated electrical systems. Hartman said the DECC wants to tackle the problems as quickly as possible.

“Honestly, we want to get these things done. So that’s why we’ve reached out to some of our local legislators and other legislators across the state of Minnesota to say. We really would like to be in this year’s bonding bill,” he said.

Hartman says the building is an emergency shelter for the region, and they need reliable systems to be able to operate efficiently. He said the DECC isn’t necessarily unsafe, but upgraded systems could help avoid future problems.

“It’s kind of like a 1966 Buick in a lot of ways. They can be pretty hearty cars, but it doesn’t really mean you should be driving around in a ‘66 Buick all the time,” said Hartman.

Steve Rankila, Director of Property Maintenance at the DECC says the money they gain back from better operating systems could end up offsetting the maintenance costs.

“It costs more money to operate old equipment. Anything you’re bringing in right now it’s gonna be more energy-efficient,” said Rankila. The DECC does not currently have a timeline for maintenance, as they haven’t yet identified a source for funding.

To see the video version of the original report and read related posts, follow this link to the KBJR-TV website.