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New recreational facility will need Preston City funds

Fri, Jul 25th, 2003
Posted in Features

The Preston City Council met Monday for about three hours with Mayor Dave Pechulis, Mike Gartner, and Heath Mensink in attendance. Jerry Scheevel is recovering from heart surgery and Mike McGarvey was also absent.

Mike Gartner asked that some items on the agenda be postponed until the next meeting because of the busy agenda and the absent members. Seven items were struck including the controversy surrounding the travel policy or lack thereof.

Steve Knoepke gave an update on the recreational facility explaining that the plan had been down sized from a 35,000 square foot building costing $5,500,000 to a 27,000 square foot building estimated to cost $3,500,000. He explained how the wading, lap, and plunge pools had been combined into one vessel which would cut initial costs as well as ongoing operating costs. Representatives of TSP in Rochester were on hand to answer questions about the facilities design and relative costs.

According to Knoepke, Crescendo Consulting, the company responsible for the fund raising, believes there is the capacity to raise raise $3,000,000. The estimated total cost of the facility, including architectural fees, furnishings and initial operating costs would bring the price tag to about $4,370,000. Any further reduction in estimated costs would require elimination of parts of the facility.

The gap between what can be raised privately and the total cost, approximately $1.4 million, is about the same cost of replacing the existing pool that is more than 40 years old.

Knoepke said that it would cost an estimated $750,000 to bring the existing pool up to code and about $1,250,000 to build a new pool. Operation of the new facility is expected to run a deficit as does the operation of the current pool. The figures are based on a membership of 1,000. Phone surveys suggested that membership could be as high as 1400.

Knoepke stressed more than once that it was not their intention to 'ram this down your (city council’s) throat. . .because it would be a tax burden.'

Knoepke admitted that the timing of the Steering Committee report was unfortunate given the other large financial obligation the city has with the street and sewer projects. But he declared that 'there won't be a good time to come up with the money.'

Knoepke concluded his comments by saying that the committee had looked into the marketing, design, fundraising, and operation of the recreation facility and now it was up to the city council to decide what they wanted to do.

"Our purpose is to research this for the city. . .and we've "done our best to come up with the most cost efficient plan," Knoepke said.

Council member Heath Mensink said that if came to replacing the present pool for $1.4 million or helping to create a recreational facility for the same amount, he favored a recreational facility.

Mayor Pechulis said that if it were to be bonded there would need to be a referendum. The council seemed to be in favor if the public would back it. It was decided to consult with Mike Bubany of Dave Drown Associates to look at various scenarios for public financing.

Rogue Beaver Redux

John and Joanne Szuch were again expressing their displeasure with the lack of efficiency and dispatch in response to their numerous requests to eliminate the beaver that has been destroying their hedge. Szuchs were especially unhappy with the city administrator, Fred Nagle. Szuch said that he had gone to Nagle's office every Tuesday for a couple of months starting in May. Szuch asked the council if they would reimburse him for expenses for 'Tree Guard' to dissuade the beaver. Mensink discouraged the use of the product explaining that it is used to protect against deer and rabbits. Mensink suggested erecting a fence dug into the ground to protect the Arborvitae which would eventually become part of the hedge. It was decided that Mensink would help the Szuchs develop a plan and then the council would get two bids to put in the fence. The council would have the fence built in the fall after seven trees were replaced. The Szuchs seemed satisfied with the idea.

West West Bridge

Carimona resident Keith Fabian asked that a resolution be made to overturn a unanimous decision by the council on February 3, 2003 approving the DNR use of the West West Bridge for trail use. City attorney and member of the Joint Powers Board, David Joerg emphasized that 'no tax money from the city will be used for the rebuilding of the bridge.'

According to Joerg, state engineers designed the plan to be the most cost effective way to accommodate the trail and to accommodate property owner Dennis Clausen. Clausen is concerned about any fill material being added which may cause flooding on his property. The council decided to take no action on Fabian's resolution. Fabian vowed that he will be back with the same request next meeting.

Heartland and MPCA

on July 22

Bob Maust had requested through the administrator's office that Fred Nagle and EDA Coordinator Barry Kramer attend the MPCA hearing on Heartland. Nagle said that he would go only if the council asked him to. A very heated and highly emotional discussion followed. Last fall a letter was supposed to be drafted and sent to the MPCA requesting an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) on behalf of the City for the Heartland Plant. Apparently, the letter was slow in getting out and possibly was addressed improperly. In any case, the request never made it to the MPCA. Citizens requested that a council member be sent to the MPCA meeting stating that an EIS be requested.

Council member Mike Gartner had thought that a request for the EIS had been made last fall. Inez Strahl insisted that since 'Mike Gartner thought the City requested the EIS once, would he be willing to ask the mayor to reiterate that request at the MPCA meeting?' Gartner made a motion that Mayor Pechulis go to the meeting. Gartner and Pechulis voted in favor of the motion with Mensink opposed. Pechulis will go as a representative of the City.

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