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Out with the old and in with the new

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

This fall, a new structure will be in place on top of the hill at the Blackduck Forestry Service Ranger Station. Because on ongoing necessary repairs, the bunkhouse used to house temporary forest workers was torn down and will be replaced.

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On July 1, the demolition of the old bunkhouse, which was built in 1964, took place. Employees of the station called it "the end of an era."

According to the Chippewa National Forest Public Affairs Team Leader Kay Getting, replacing the building used to house temporary forest workers at the Blackduck Ranger District is one of 15 projects the Chippewa National Forest's plate. The project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act this year. Most of these Recovery Act projects will maintain and improve existing infrastructure.

"The Chippewa National Forest proposed projects early in 2009 as part of a national process," she said. "Selected projects needed to be ready to implement, with all public input or environmental review already completed. Replacing a building on an existing forest service site did not require additional public input. The same contracting process was used that the national forest typically uses."

She also said that nationally, over $4 billion in projects were proposed and $1.15 billion were selected and allocated to the Forest Service.

The Recovery Act work on Chippewa National Forest totals nearly $6 million dollars. A typical annual operating budget for the CNF is $12-$13 million, so the Recovery Act represents an addition of nearly 50 percent this year.

Most of the Chippewa National Forest Recovery Act projects will be completed by the end of the year. The Recovery Act does not fund additional employees -- only the contractor , their the work and supplies. Much of the work is contracted to local businesses and partners such as the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

Bunkhouses for temporary workers have been proposed for many years under the idea that they would serve as a longterm investment. The Recovery Act funds allowed this project to be funded sooner than the forest service hoped.

"The Chippewa National Forest annually hires approximately 30-50 temporary workers each year to accomplish work efficiently during the appropriate season," Getting said. "Not all workers need housing, but the ability to provide low cost housing options in small towns helps attract applicants, helps workers learn rules for living compatibly in rural areas and helps them share resources and expenses. Temporary workers pay for their own housing, whether they rent from the forest service or from resorts or other landlords."

From the outside, the old bunkhouse didn't appear to have any severe problems, however, it was originally an older home not intended to house multiple people and not designed as a bunkhouse. The structure needed a number of repairs, including cracked basement walls, inefficient energy use and the demand for more space. The new bunkhouse will offer solutions to all of these problems and more.

"The new bunkhouse is scheduled for installation this fall and will be a standard "modular" type bunkhouse that can efficiently accommodate six to 12 people if needed," Getting said. "The building will be universally accessible as required by the Americans With Disabilities Act and will be more energy efficient -- keeping costs down for both the Forest Service and for temporary workers.

Visitors are welcome to observe the construction site from a distance or can get more information from the Blackduck District Ranger at 835-4291 or visit www.Recovery.gov.

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Pioneer staff reports
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