By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Sometimes, things take much longer than originally expected. Lester Prairie has a couple such projects that have been in the works for more than a year. It is just possible that they could finally be completed in 2009.
In January, 2007, the city applied for a Safe Routes to School Grant through the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. At the state level, the program is administered by MnDOT.
The purpose of the program is to provide a safe way for children to travel to and from school.
In Lester Prairie, the plan involves construction of a trail along the north side of McLeod County Road 23 from McLeod County Road 9 to Pine Street. From there, the trail will turn south to connect with the city park.
The city was notified in April 2007 that it had been awarded a $175,000 grant for the project.
Being notified that it had been awarded the grant turned out to be very different from the city actually receiving the money.
It took months, and a great deal of correspondence, before the city was able to move forward.
There were more complications, as some city residents objected to the proposed route months after the final route had been approved.
Another complication arose when McLeod County required a wetland delineation late in the process.
The city has worked through all these obstacles, and City Engineer Jake Saulsbury has sent the revised plan to MnDOT for final review.
City Clerk Marilyn Pawelk said she is hopeful that construction of the trail can begin in early spring 2009.
Central Park project to move forward
Another long-term issue is one that the city began working on in 2006. It involves improvements to the city’s downtown park.
A committee of residents that was formed to review the issue determined that the old bandstand had deteriorated beyond repair, and the council had the structure removed.
The committee came up with a proposal for improvements to the park, which included a new gazebo, landscaping, and lighting.
The committee and the park commission presented the proposal to the city council in January, 2007.
In September, 2007, the city council approved using $60,000 in city funds to pay for the proposed park improvements.
One of the challenges with the project is the fact that the city does not own the property. It is owned by the McLeod County Rail Authority and managed by the DNR.
The city received authorization from the rail authority to move forward with the project earlier this year.
In November, the city council approved three bids for the first phase the park including:
• Gazebo Clearwater Recreation of Waconia, $45,544.
• Electrical wiring and installation A1 Electric Service of Waconia, $8,776.
• Sidewalks and shelter flooring Jackels & Ross Concrete of Lester Prairie, $13,104, plus $25 per lineal foot for curb replacement. A 38-foot section of curb on the south side of Central Avenue is in need of replacement.
The gazebo will be assembled using volunteer labor. Work on the new park is expected to begin next spring.