September 17, 2007

LP approves $60,000 for Central Park on a 4-1 vote

By Ivan Raconteur
Staff Writer

The Lester Prairie City Council took the next step in a process that began two years ago when it approved $60,000 to be used for improvements to the city’s Central Park Monday night.

The move will utilize $50,000 in park reserve funds and $10,000 from the park commission’s 2008 budget.

The measure was approved on a 4-1 vote, with council members Andy Heimerl, Larry Hoof, Ron Foust and Art Mallak in favor, and Mayor Eric Angvall opposed.

The proposed expenditure met with opposition in the past. On Monday night, community organizations, including the Lester Prairie American Legion, Lions Club, the Prairie Arts Council, and the Lester Prairie Business Association voiced their support for the project.

The events leading up to the approval began in 2006 when the council contemplated the fate of the run-down bandstand in the park on the south side of Central Avenue, east of Juniper Street, in downtown Lester Prairie.

A group of residents stepped forward and came up with a plan to revitalize the park and improve the appearance of the downtown area.

The committee determined that the old bandstand was deteriorated beyond repair.

It came up with a proposal to remove the old bandstand and replace it with a new one.

The plan also included landscaping, the addition of a parking area, and space for an American Legion memorial.

Members of the committee volunteered their time to research and develop the plan.

The committee brought the plan to the park board, which unanimously recommended approval by the city council.

The park board and the committee brought the plan to the city council in January 2007.

The committee stated that its goal was to:

• provide a positive image of downtown Lester Prairie for both residents and visitors,

• provide a place for leisure and relaxation, and

• provide a place for entertainment and other activities for local organizations.

The estimated cost of the project at that time was $103,200.

Two public meetings were scheduled, one in January, and one in February to gather public input.

The council expressed general support for the concept, but was concerned about funding.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Committee Member Jerry Pawelk said the cost of the project is now estimated to be $99,800.

Council Member Ron Foust asked if anything had changed in the design of the project.

Pawelk said the committee had decided that the size of the gazebo should be increased from 20 feet to 28 feet.

The committee also eliminated some elements, such as a climbing wall, from the plan, and found some less expensive options for other elements.

Pawelk said the “magic number” to get the project started is $60,000.

This will cover the cost of running electricity underground to the new gazebo, installation of concrete, and the cost of the gazebo.

Community organizations support the proposal

Chester Hoernemann, of the Lester Prairie American Legion Post, asked the city to approve a plan for the park, even if it is not ready to approve expenditures.

“We would like the city to approve a plan so we can start planning our part,” Hoernemann said.

The proposal put forward by the committee includes a 40-foot-by 40-foot corner designated for a Legion memorial.

Hoernemann said the Legion is looking for a project that it can work on to help attract new members. He said the Legion would like to move the city’s Memorial Day celebration to the downtown park, and added that the park’s central location may encourage more people to participate.

Hoernemann said that some sort of permanent memorial and flags could be installed in the park.

Lions Club Member Ralph Machemehl said the Lester Prairie Lions are in favor of the park proposal and may have some pull tab money available.

He added that the Prairie Arts Council is also interested in the project, and there has been discussion about moving music in the park events to the proposed facility.

Lester Prairie Business Association President Troy Feltmann said the business association is in favor of the park proposal.

The business association hopes to install a reader board in the park to promote community events.

Angvall said the Central Park proposal appears to compete with plans for Sunrise Park, which have been in the works for a few years.

“It seems like we are jumping over that (Sunrise Park) to work on a new park,” Angvall commented.

Park Board Member Bob Messer offered an update on the status of Sunrise Park improvements.

“Based on the money we have saved over the past three years, we have been able to start the project,” Messer said.

He said he has recruited skilled workers, and plans to begin framing bridges and boardwalks on the weekends of Oct. 6 and Oct. 13. He said he expects the framing to be complete by the end of October.

“At that point, you will have made the park accessible,” Messer commented.

He added that the Girl Scouts have already poured footings for a bench they plan to install at a scenic point of interest in the park.

The funds already approved for the project will also allow for the installation of some signs and some indigenous plant material, Messer said.

Angvall asked if this would complete the project. Messer replied that there is a lot left to be done, and he expects the project to take four or five years to complete.

Andy Heimerl said the park board has a plan to budget money for both Sunrise Park and Central Park.

“We are going to work together. It is time to move forward,” Heimerl said.

Pawelk said he does not think the city will need the whole estimated $99,800 for the project.

“You might be pleasantly surprised with the bids we get,” Pawelk said. He added that in-kind contributions and donations are also likely to reduce the city’s contribution.

Pawelk also said that now that the city approved funding for the project, the committee can move forward and get bids for the work, which will provide a more accurate picture of the cost of the project.

After the council approved the funds to be used for Central Park, Angvall said public meetings will need to be scheduled to get public input regarding the design for the park.

Pawelk said work on the park could start next spring.

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