Nov. 27, 2006

Dassel Cokato ice arena committee restructured

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Rob Swendra of Cokato wants to put the excitement back into the community for the Dassel Cokato Ice Arena project, he said last Monday at the Dassel City Council meeting.

Swendra was named president of the restructured eight-director group Oct. 12. It is spearheading the plans for the arena proposed for the intersection of Highways 12 and 15, west of Dassel. Terrance O’Brien is vice president, Tom Ganser is treasurer, and Kelly Babekuhl is secretary.

The project has $672,000 in liquid assets so far, but Swendra believes the project organizers can raise more if area residents see a building going up, bulldozers moving dirt, and not just a sign advertising the project.

“That’s far from enough to get the job done,” Swendra said.

Building the access and driveway to the building site will push up the total cost of the project to $1 million to $1.3 million.

“It’s a huge, huge amount of money to handle ourselves,” Swendra said.

Swendra added that the project organizers were not looking for money from the city of Dassel, but for its advice and expertise.

“It’s been long enough,” Swendra said about the fund-raising stage, adding he wanted to get bids this winter.

Mayor Ava Flachmeyer said if organizers still want to include a fitness center in the complex, then Meeker County Economic Development Authority might assist.

City Administrator Myles McGrath suggested the committee contact State Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, and State Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City for help. However, O’Brien countered that state grants usually require some city ownership The committee wants the ice arena to be private, he said.

Public Works director Dave Scepaniak said the Department of Natural Resources has funds for parks and recreation. Because the ice arena is a recreational facility, it might qualify for those funds.

Dean Schmitz of Dassel asked if the Dassel Cokato school district has been approached for funds. Ganser responded, though, that the portion of $40,000 that goes to Litchfield school district, which shares in the school hockey program, could be used for operations, but not the building.

Council Member Bob Lalone suggested making the fund-raising more visible, because if the community sees progress, it will generate more funds.

Swendra said the Mighty Ducks ice hockey program is not available anymore either. He also asked the city if after the property is developed and other property owners want to build there, can they be charged for their share of the cost of the access.

They can’t, though, McGrath said.

If the project fails or a different site is chosen, wouldn’t the city be obligated to develop its property anyway? asked Mike Scanlon of Dassel.

Dassel is obligated only to build a park or recreational facility, if it decides to build at all, McGrath responded.

According to the developer’s agreement, if the land reverts to the city, it will be “at city’s discretion,” what happens afterward, Swendra agreed.

The extension for one year on the breaking of ground for the facility will expire Jan. 21, 2007. McGrath advised council members that before the council extends the ground-breaking again, they consider whether the project has enough funding to be viable, and evidence that the facility can sustain itself for ongoing operations and maintenance.

To access past and present minutes of city council meetings, go to the web site ci.dassel.mn.us or contact the city at (320) 275-2454.

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