Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 14, 2000

For now, LP bandstand stays

By Jane Otto

The consensus among the audience at the Lester Prairie City Council meeting last Monday was "Keep the bandstand."

About 15 residents attended the meeting to discuss the bandstand's future.

At the July 10 meeting, council member Rose Halloran, liaison to the park board, said that the park board recommended demolishing the bandstand. That recommendation is what prompted the council to seek input from the community on the issue.

Halloran reiterated the park board's reasons for tearing down the historic structure. They were:

  • the bandstand is in need of repair;
  • it isn't used often;
  • if a bandstand is needed, then it should be at the park, where it will get more use;
  • taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for repairs; and
  • it is not on city property.

She said it was an unanimous decision.

"It is rigid, well-built, second shingles are on the roof, and other than one corner that hangs down about three inches that a hydraulic jack and a little cement would take care of, it's in good repair," said resident Ed Mylnar. "It's on Dakota Rail property. Why put any more money into it at the present time, until that is finally taken care of."

"That would be my observation," said resident Art Schwichtenberg. "There's no need to touch it at all."

City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said that she was informed that Rail America, which now owns the property, will not reach a decision for at least 45 days.

"Until then, they are not talking to anybody," Pawelk said.

When the railroad does start talking, Brian Duncan has ideas.

Duncan, who serves on the planning commission, would like to see the city buy that lot, if and when it becomes available, and also the lot directly to the west which once housed the old elevator. The entire area, he said, would make an ideal downtown park and an ideal comprehensive plan situation.

The city council had adopted a comprehensive plan this summer that is basically a direction for the city to follow towards improvement and growth.

"I think we should do nothing until something happens with the railroad. If we tear it down, we'll never have a new bandstand for what it will cost to repair it," Duncan said.

Duncan said that he was surprised to learn that the council was considering demolishing the bandstand. That kind of action goes against the comprehensive plan; parks and walking paths are part of that plan, he said.

"We (planning commission) need to know what's going on," he said.

"That's a good point. We have to get in the habit of that," said Mayor Eric Angvall.

It was suggested possibly razing the bandstand and moving it to the park on Second Avenue S. Crowd sentiment was to keep it where it is or it wouldn't have the same significance.

As for repairs, Councilman Stan Ehrke said that he had asked the city's building inspector, Paul Waldron, if the the bandstand had to comply with the building code. As repairs are made, only what is being repaired would have to be brought up to code, he said.

Some audience members came prepared with ideas on how to pay for bandstand repairs or for revitalization of the area.

Cathy Nelson-Messer, who prepares grant applications for Lester Prairie's Comprehensive Arts Planning Program, said there are two different grants available for such a project.

One, a local arts development grant through the Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council, would provide up to $4,000, however, that amount must be matched to bring the total to $8,000. The deadline for that particular grant, Nelson-Messer said, is Nov. 1 for any project after March 31, 2001.

Another grant, the Minnesota Rural Arts Park Initiative through the Blandin Foundation, is more detailed, but broader in scope, and seems to have an open dollar amount, she said.

Nelson-Messer pointed out that often these grants have "in-kind" matches.

The fire department could be another source of revenue.

Fire Chief Jerry Pawelk said that $1,500 raised through charitable gambling can be used to spruce up the bandstand and possibly, provide lights and benches. Angvall suggested that maybe that money could be used towards matching the $4,000 grant.

Pawelk said he had a little history lesson in conjunction with reviewing the bandstand issue. In 1932, the fire department, along with the Legion and the Garden Club, which is now defunct, had built it.

"That's an historical part of the city that I'd hate to lose," Pawelk said.

Shirley Dibb provided the council with another history lesson. The "silent policeman" to the west of the bandstand, which now serves as a flower stand, once stood in the intersection of Central and Juniper to control traffic, she said.

"We should get a plaque on things like that," said Angvall.

With the elevator gone, Angvall said that a park there would be an city asset. He encouraged those present to make a downtown park project become a community effort.

Dibb said in 1975, a plan was prepared for a park where the bandstand is, and a walking path, as part of a grant application. The application was late, however, and the idea was abandoned, she said.

Angvall asked if a copy of the plans, if they still existed, could be given to the park board. Dibb said she has the plans for the bandstand, but wasn't sure what happened to the walking path plans.

Halloran said she will notify the park board not to do anything with the bandstand until more is known about the land. She added that 45 days should be enough time to get something going in the community, such as gathering grant information.

"I'm glad we did this. I'd like to see us keep it," Halloran said.


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