July 16, 2007

Ice arena receives letter of intent from the school district

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

A letter of intent was written and signed by members of the Dassel-Cokato School Board’s subcommittee to the Dassel-Cokato Ice and Sports Center last week in a special board meeting.

The letter of intent was to continue discussions between the ice arena board and the school district regarding the proposed construction of an ice arena on district property as well as allowing it to go forward with the next phase of the project.

The letter also stated that the ice arena will be constructed at no cost to the school district.

The next step for the ice arena is to confirm the arena will indeed fit onto the property allocated and then obtain a land lease agreement from the Dassel-Cokato School District.

The lease agreement would stipulate conditions surrounding the leasing of school property to the ice arena and its use of the facility.

“Once this is approved and signed by the school board, we can start moving dirt,” said ice arena board member Rob Swendra.

The estimated cost of the project is approximately $1.5 million, but the final numbers will be presented to ice arena board by its general contractor Art Hagen of Hagen Builders within the next week.

“We’re getting closer, and things are finally moving in the right direction,” Swendra said.

The ice arena would also be home to an Allina partial hospitalization program. If the program is a go, Allina would be leasing 4,600 square feet from ice arena.

“This would give us a guaranteed cash flow to fund ongoing expenses for the arena project,” Swendra said.

The ice arena will be doing more fundraising in the near future as well as searching for in-kind labor from community members and local businesses to help with inside construction, according to Swendra.

“There is a lot to do, but if all goes well, we can begin construction in late summer, early fall,” Swendra said.

New Allina program

Diane Pagel, a psychologist from Allina, also attended the meeting to give an update on the progress of the proposed partial hospitalization program and the potential lease of space in the ice arena.

The birth of the program came when Allina saw a need to bring crisis services to the area. Services would include therapy and education for children in crisis situations such as for runaways, those who are suicidal, have peer problems, or suffer from depression, according to Pagel.

“It’s for those who are to the point where they are not functioning in school or at home,” Pagel said.

The only options for children in such situations currently is to send them to the hospital, but since they aren’t dangerous, they are sent back home, Pagel explained.

“These are kids who don’t need a group home, just a temporary support system to get them back up on their feet and functioning at home or in school,” Pagel said.

Pagel’s idea for the program would included group therapy, individual therapy, and also family therapy. It would also allow children access to a physician or psychiatrist to have medication reviewed.

The staff, including physicians and psychologists, would develop a treatment plan for the child in collaboration with their parents to alleviate the crisis, according to Pagel.

“It’s a team approach,” she said.

Allina partial hospitalization program is not the official name. If they would have to receive a nominal donation to start the program, the name of the donor would possibly be used.

For now, the only other option for this type of service would be driving to the cities or to St. Cloud, where there is a three-to four-month waiting list, Pagel said.

Why Cokato? Allina currently has a clinic in Cokato and wants to show its commitment to the community by bringing this type of service to the area, Pagel said.

Many cities in Wright County, such as Buffalo or St. Michael, already have better access to this type of service, unlike rural communities like Cokato.

To prevent program attendees from getting behind in their schooling, the plan would be to attend school for two hours a day with certified teachers.

These teachers would communicate with the home school and work with the students on their school work while they are in therapy, according to Pagel.

Allina plans to contract with the Dassel-Cokato School District to use the Area Learning Center teachers to provide that educational component.

For this reason, the district is allowing the program to take place on school grounds, in close proximity to the teachers.

“Because we are a brand new program and operating with little start-up funds, we don’t have the money for capital expenditures (building),” Pagel said.

Although Pagel doesn’t have an absolute, firm go-ahead from Allina, she will know more in the weeks to come, she said.

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