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Preston City Council: Recreation Center gets go ahead

Fri, Jan 24th, 2003
Posted in Features

The Preston City Council voted at their meeting Tuesday night to hire Crescendo Consulting of Winona to organize a capital campaign to raise $3 million for a new Recreation Center. The 34,000 square foot facility, which will be built adjacent to the Fillmore Central Middle School, will be equipped with an indoor aquatic center and running track.

A comprehensive update on the proposal was presented by former city council member Steve Knoepke and Chuck Aug, both of whom serve on the Steering Committee. Knoepke gave a brief history of the project, detailing various marketing and fundraising surveys that have been completed over the past few years.

The marketing survey showed that the recreation center would be able to attract more than 1000 memberships, while the fundraising study indicated that there was more than adequate philanthropy in the area to raise the money to build the facility.

The Steering Committee has recently studied similar recreational facilities in several locations to get a sense of actual operating expenses and expected income. Chuck Aug said that the committee wanted to find out if there is a continuing operating burden for the city.

Based on the Steering Committees findings, it was estimated that the city of Preston might expect an annual operating loss of $50,000 to $100,000.

Mayor Dave Pechulis asked how much it costs the city to operate the present pool. Knoepke said that the subsidy the city now provides is about $40,000 a year..

Knoepke said, "Cresco is the facility we have been trying to model after." According to Aug, Cresco has been successful in that they have controlled programming costs while attracting strong membership. The Cresco facility expects a shortfall of about $10,000 in the year 2003.

Knoepke said that Cresco was a bigger town of about 3500 people, but Preston with the surrounding area, including those in a fifteen mile radius, presented strong numbers.

John Torgrimson, a member of the Steering Committee, said that in his view this was an 'investment' in Preston to make it a more attractive place to live.

City Administrator Fred Nagle, who talked to managers of the many facilities surveyed, said that regardless of the amount each city subsidized their facility they all expressed pride in their facilities and are not sorry they built them.

An eleven month fund raising campaign is anticipated with Crescendo. Knoepke said that the costs of fund raising would not exceed $115,000 and that the city would be billed on a monthly basis. The money to pay the fundraisers would eventually come out of the funds raised to build the facility.

The mayor declared that the projected cost of operating the pool was not out of line compared to the cost of operating the present pool which is near the end of it's life. He sees the new pool as a benefit to the community and he's '100% for it'.

Council member Mike Gartner asked what was the Steering Committee's 'bottom line'? Chuck Aug said, "I think we should go ahead with it."

Aug said that the indoor facility will be given to the city for nothing, with no money coming from the city's coffers.

The question is, do you guys, meaning the council, want to run it? Aug asked. The steering committee supports it unanimously.

Mayor Pechulis said, "I can't see any reason not to move forward with this."

The council voted unanimously to go ahead. The mayor thanked the Steering Committee for all of their work so far. The Steering Committee will continue to work on the design and fundraising aspects of the project. Knoepke also said that legal agreements between the school and the city still need to be finalized.

School Board

Ron Stevens, President of the Fillmore Central School Board reported to the council about the recent community meetings that have been held to solicit public input into various school matters. Stevens said that the biggest issue facing Fillmore Central, as well as other schools, is declining enrollment.

He said one outcome of the community meetings was the need to better communicate to the community and the possibility of a monthly news letter was suggested. Stevens also said that the school board is considering the idea of expanding School Age Child Care to include daycare.

Stevens related that it costs over $40,000 per year for the Internet, an expense that the State picked up until last year. He said that they will be looking at alternatives in the near future. Stevens said that State aid goes with the pupil and that with open enrollment we're in a 'competitive market for students'. Stevens agreed that the 'pool will be a draw for people to drive here and to live here.

Heartland Energy

A long discussion about the Conditional Use Permit the city granted Heartland Energy & Recycling in May. According to state law, the city should have waited to issue the permit until state regulatory permits were issued.

Mayor Pechulis said that the city was in error when they issued the permit. Fred Nagle, who had been asked by the council to contact the League of Minnesota Cities, said that the League had told him that the permit didnt have to be rescinded. But Nagle said that the League had yet to put that statement in writing.

The council seemed frustrated about this problem, trying to walk a fine line between not being in compliance with state law and being exposed to possible law suits from interested parties. The mayor said that we're just trying to figure out how to alleviate any liability, right now.

Mike Gartner told his colleagues that he believed the city needed an attorney here to ask questions and to help us get out of this 'bind' the right way.

City Attorney David Joerg, who had recused himself from this issue because of conflict of interest, said that he would provide the name of legal representation who would be able to interpret the statute and advise the council for the next meeting.

Other business

A resolution was approved that prohibits parking from the Methodist Church to the highway on the East side of the street. Parking will be allowed in front of the Methodist Church.

More volunteers are needed for Trout Days. The mayor said this is a 'pride issue' and encourages more business representation and donations.

The Corson tax abatement issue was discussed further with the need for a waiver to allow some gravel parking areas instead of all blacktop. Corson explained that the cost for all blacktop is prohibitive. Two parking spots are being provided as required for each unit. Nagle said that the important thing was that they wouldn't be parking on the street. The abatement agreement applies only to the new twelve units.

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