By Ivan Raconteur
Lester Prairie’s Central Park Committee cleared a hurdle that has been standing in its way since April.
The committee has been trying to get approval for a plan to add a gazebo and other improvements to Central Park, which is located at the intersection of Central Avenue and Juniper Street in downtown Lester Prairie.
Committee co-chair Ralph Machemehl said he hopes the city council will give the project the go-ahead during the Monday, Aug. 11 council meeting.
The committee’s work is not over. Machemehl said he hopes that the rail authority’s attorney will provide a signed and notarized copy of the plan to the city prior to the council meeting.
He added that the city attorney and the rail authority attorney still need to agree on a lease agreement for the property.
One of the challenges with the site is that the city does not own the land. It is part of the former Dakota Rail corridor, which is owned by the McLeod County Rail Authority and managed by the DNR.
Members of the committee had previously met with rail authority member and McLeod County Commissioner Sheldon Nies, and he had voiced no objections, but the city council told the committee that it needed to get written approval of the plan from the full rail authority before the council will consider spending tax dollars on the project.
Machemehl said the city council must still approve plans and specifications for the project, and authorize advertising for bids.
The council could consider these during the Aug. 11 meeting.
The council would then have to award the bid, which could happen during its Sept. 8 council meeting.
The committee first brought the plan to the city council in January 2007.
Machemehl said the committee doesn’t have an estimated cost for the project. It has been scaled down from the original plan, which the committee estimated would cost $103,200, but Machemehl noted that the cost of steel has increased 50 percent since the original plan was completed.
The city council previously agreed to use $50,000 in park reserve funds and $10,000 from the 2008 park budget to fund the improvements, although the council has not formally approved any specific plans for the project.
Machemehl said the fire department relief association has also said it will contribute toward the project.
The plan includes a gazebo, walkways, parking area, electrical work, landscaping, lighting, and space for a future Legion memorial.
The committee’s goal is to provide a positive image of downtown Lester Prairie for residents and visitors, to provide a place of leisure and relaxation, and a place for entertainment and activities for local organizations and groups.