Herald JournalHerald Journal, July 18, 2005

Lakefront center in Winsted possible and affordable, officials say

By Lynda Jensen
Editor

The dream of a beautiful lakefront city center in Winsted that would energize the downtown area and attract people from miles around seems not just possible, but probable following plans and possibilities presented to the Winsted City Council recently.

“It came from the synergy of many things,” commented Administrator Brent Mareck, referring to a new city center complex that is tentatively being planned where the existing public works building is.

The best part about a new city center idea might be that the cost would be affordable to Winsted taxpayers, since the city can probably avoid a referendum for the city center altogether because of the way the city’s finances are arranged.

There are several different options being looked at (see boxed area), with a popular scenario being Option C, which would be a new city hall complex that would include a new police station, city hall, and community center for $1.9 million.

The city is also looking into building a new public works building to replace the old, to be built at an undetermined location. This would cost about $500,000.

Parks and landscaping for the city hall along the lake would amount to $750,000.

With all of these components added together, Option C, the new public works building, and landscaping; combined with the cost of financing, the grand total for the project would be $3.7 million, Mareck said.

The average tax impact on a home with $200,000 value would be $30 per year.

This is possible because a number of existing debt service projects are scheduled to expire in the near future, which would allow the city to simply continue collecting the same level of taxes without making a major increase, Mareck said.

There are two ways for the city to pay for it, either a referendum or by using a different route with the Winsted economic development housing authority, called a lease option.

For the lease option, the city would essentially be turning over the project to the housing authority, which is composed of the city council, Steve Stotko and Paul Weibel. It would be leasing (or paying) the housing authority for the project.

The city center was conceived last year with intensive brainstorming by the Design Team, fueled by a flood of public input and the participation of at least nine different entities, including the Winsted Lake Watershed Association, the Downtown Renewal Commission, and a focus group for the city center working since then.

“It’s nothing short of a super community effort,” Mareck said.

The city is also applying for federal dollars through a community development block grant, which could allow businesses along First Street to take advantage of grant money for a facelift of the downtown area. In fact, the city met with government officials last month to set this idea into motion, Mareck said.

It is also possible that the money spent by the city for city center components, if all goes as planned, could be deemed the city’s portion of matching dollars for grants, if this is required.

If this happens, it would give the city a multiple infusion of dollars to revitalize downtown.

“We don’t have a site yet for public works,” Mareck noted. There are a few easements being worked out as well.

The community center may be used for a wide range of functions, but is intended to be a smoke-free, alcohol free environment. “It’s not intended to serve as a wedding hall,” he added.


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