Sept. 25, 2006

LP residents step up to support bandstand

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

Lester Prairie residents voiced strong opinions about the Central Park bandstand and other issues during the park board meeting Tuesday.

Seven people stepped forward to form a committee to help determine the future of the bandstand.

Those volunteering included Stanley Ehrke, Charlotte Ehrke, Earl Strey, Shirley Dibb, Donna Machemehl, Diane Pawelk, and Margie Herrmann.

Lease needed

Before any decisions can be made, a lease agreement needs to be worked out with McLeod County.

The bandstand is on former Dakota Rail property, which is now owned by the county.

Resident Ralph Machemehl recently brought a lease agreement to the city council.

The council forwarded the agreement to the park board to consider during Tuesday’s meeting.

However, during the meeting, Stanley Ehrke asked about a 1942 lease agreement that the city had with the railroad.

Ehrke showed the board a copy of the lease, and said the city had the original.

“One of the first things we need to do is find out if this lease is still valid, or if it became null and void when the property changed hands,” council member and park board liaison Art Mallak said.

Mallak also said that the city will need to determine the exact borders of the lease area.

The dimensions listed on the old lease list the area as 235 feet east to west, and 55 feet north to south.

Repair or replace?

One of the recommendations the committee will need to make is whether to repair the existing bandstand, or replace it with a new structure.

Most of the discussion Tuesday involved repair of the old bandstand.

Mallak initially said that he had been told that if the existing structure is repaired, it will need to be brought up to current standards, including being made handicap accessible.

Ehrke said that he had heard this too, but had since found out that this is not the case.

“If what you say is true, then that would be the way to go (repairing versus replacing,” Mallak commented.

Ehrke said that he has discussed the bandstand with the building inspector.

The outside supporting posts are rotten, and said the best solution would be to put in footings to support the structure; but a less expensive solution would be to cut out the rotted portion of the posts, and put cement blocks under them, according to Ehrke.

This brought up the subject of railings.

The floor of the bandstand is currently 36 inches off the ground.

Because of this, if the structure is remodeled, railings 42 inches high would be required.

If the floor level was brought down to 30 inches or less, no railings would be required.

If railings are installed, it was discussed that spindles would be preferable to solid walls, because they would improve visibility, and parents could see what children are doing if they are playing in the structure.

Spindles would need to be spaced four inches apart, Ehrke said.

Shingling the roof could cost as little as $2,000, according to Ehrke.

He said the floor has been re-done, and is in good shape.

What about the money?

When asked if there is any money available to finance repair of the bandstand, Mallak said he was not sure, but thought the city has about $30,000 set aside for park improvements.

Other park amenities

The group also discussed other park features.

Resident Jerry Pawelk said that apart from drawing people to the downtown area, the city should consider the aesthetics of the park, and the impression it gives people when they drive by this central part of the city.

“There’s nothing there but a broken down bandshell,” Mallak commented.

Lester Prairie Business Association Vice President Troy Feltmann said the association would like to install a reader board in the corner of the park. The board would have removable letters, and would be used to advertise community events.

Committe members suggested that this would be a good spot if the Legion or the Lions wanted to put up a memorial to the veterans.

Maintenance issues

It was discussed that before moving forward with any recommendation from the committee, it will be necessary to get a commitment from the city to maintain the park.

“We need the city’s commitment to maintain it so it doesn’t end up like the bandstand is now,” Mallak commented.

Several people mentioned broken glass in the park that is both a hazard and a deterrent to park users.

Is it worth the cost?

“If you are going to put money into this thing, you have to use it,” Ehrke commented.

“It was a big part of this community in the ‘40s. There was music every Saturday night, and it brought people into the city,” Strey said.

The group discussed the possibility of involving the Prairie Arts Council in the process, to determine if the facility could be used for music or other events.

The committee will meet with the park board again at its Tuesday, Oct. 17 meeting.

What’s next?

The committee will need to:

• schedule meetings to determine what it would like to see for the bandstand and other park amenities;

• come up with a design to present to the park board and the council;

• research cost estimates for the proposed project

• secure a commitment from the city to maintain the park.

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