Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Unique timing has two Delano organizations seeking same dollars
February 8, 2010

Delano Jaycees donated funds to city in late ‘90s for elevator; now wish to reallocate dollars to park improvements

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

DELANO, MN – Unique timing brought representatives of two Delano organizations to Thursday night’s city council meeting, and the Delano City Council ultimately decided it needed more information before taking action on either of their requests.

Moved from the normal meeting date of Tuesday due to political caucuses, the Delano City Council reviewed a proposed layout for the old village hall building at the Thursday night meeting.

Last month, the city council authorized a subcommittee to proceed to work with MacDonald and Mack Historic Architects to develop concept and construction plans for the old Delano Village Hall.

The subcommittee expressed a desire to maintain a high level of functionality and flexibility in the space, and was able to narrow down features and components that it feels would be beneficial to the community, according to a memo from Assistant to the City Administrator Luke Fischer.

The city council reviewed the proposed floor plans for the building, in which the lower level would have similar uses to what it is now – a meeting hall, storage, restrooms, and historical society exhibits.

A conference room that would be available to any community organization to use is also included in the proposed plan. This would be accessible from Second Street in the event the front portion of the building is being used for another purpose.

On the south exterior of the building, the locations of two garage doors that had been in the building when it was used as a fire hall have been bricked over. In the proposal, glass doors would be installed to allow for additional access into the building.

The existing bell tower of the building would be turned into an elevator shaft. According to the proposal, this would be a suitable use for the area and accommodate an elevator.

On the west exterior of the building, there is a staircase that the architect said does not meet code requirements. This area would also be revised, according to the plan. An addition to the west side of the building is included, but set back from the south facade of the building.

The beginning phases the subcommittee would like to see happen now include the installation of a sprinkler system and a reroof of the structure. From there, a “phase system” would be set up for the other components of the project.

Council Member Betsy Stolfa noticed the glass on the lower level exterior would likely be in the same area as the proposed elevator, and asked if the mechanisms would show.

Subcommittee member Jason Thompson said it is likely the glass will remain there, with the elevator mechanisms being visible from the outside. At the same time, people riding in the elevator would be able to see outside.

Other areas of discussion included the location of the bathrooms and possible installation of privacy walls by the bathroom doors, a coat rack/wall for the second level, and grant funding for parts of the proposal.

“If we move forward with this, grants are much easier to get for next phases,” Thompson said.

Mayor Joe McDonald agreed, adding that once a preservation project has begun, it’s easier to secure funding if the project is already in the works.

McDonald said he wouldn’t be in favor of the second level coat rack/wall, but said, “Otherwise, I commend you on your work.”

Other components of the proposal include a catering kitchen, noted subcommittee member Debbie DeBeer.

DeBeer then brought up the matching funds for a $50,000 grant to begin work on the project, and asked the council where the matching funds will be coming from.

It was noted the city’s share of the match is budgeted in the capital fund, but that no funds have been budgeted for any future phases.

The council took no action on the proposal, and moved to the next item on the agenda, which was a request from the Delano Jaycees to reallocate funds dedicated to the old village hall elevator to the park improvement fund.

In 1999, the Delano Jaycees donated $28,500 to the city for three projects. The bulk of those funds – $25,000 – was donated with the purpose of installing an elevator in the old city hall, which was serving at that time as the Delano Library, for access to the second floor meeting room. The reallocation of funds would likely cause a funding gap or delay of the elevator project proposed by the historical subcommittee.

“The Jaycees did a lot in the ‘90s and contributed a lot to that building back then – a lot of sweat equity, time, and effort to that building,” said City Administrator Phil Kern.

Over the past 10 years, many financial needs have arisen for the building, but that $25,000 has never been used. Several weeks ago, the Jaycees submitted a letter to the city requesting those funds be reallocated to the park improvement fund.

Jaycees President Shawn Petersen said he’d like to see those funds go to “something that is going to affect a lot of people sooner,” and mentioned the number of events that take place at Central Park has grown tremendously over the past few years.

“We just feel it’s going to be a stronger impact for a lot more people sooner,” Petersen said.

Petersen also said there are some immediate safety concerns at the park, including wiring issues and cement work. Petersen was asked if the Jaycees had set priorities yet for the improvement projects at Central Park, and Petersen said the chapter hopes to work with the park board and come up with a good plan.

Council Member Larry Bartels asked if the Jaycees had spoken to alumni members who were involved in raising the funds that were donated to the city back in the 1990s. Petersen said the chapter has talked to those members. Two were in attendance at the meeting with Petersen – alumni member Martin Bauman and treasurer Alex Roeser. Petersen said those that have been talked to were in favor of asking the city to reallocate the funds.

Roeser said work needs to be done on the buildings commonly referred to as the pork chop stand and hamburger stand “before we get to the point of having serious issues.”

“There’s a long list of things we feel we can accomplish now,” Roeser said, echoing Petersen’s comments about the increased number of people who are utilizing Central Park in one form or another.

“Taking a look at where we could best use the money to benefit the community, we do ask that you unreserve the funds for us,” Roeser said to the council.

Following a bit of discussion, Stolfa said that the money really isn’t the Jaycees’ money anymore, and said she’s “very reluctant to pull the rug out underneath that.”

Back in the late ‘90s, that dollar amount ended up not being enough money for an elevator, recalled Bartels, who was on the city council at the time the donation was received by the city.

“If we had known that, we probably would have asked for something more immediate,” Roeser said. “We don’t ask for this very lightly.”

Chris Brazelton, representing the Delano Dream Team II, which has a downtown redevelopment task force, said the timing of the request is “really awkward” and to lose that $25,000 when the old village hall project is so close to fruition, would be “devastating.”

Hotchkiss said he would like to see numbers for both projects – the renovations to the old village hall and also the priority list and cost estimates of the Jaycees’ desired improvements to Central Park.

McDonald admitted when he first learned of the Jaycees’ request, he was excited, and said it seemed reasonable to put those dollars to good use – but then he learned of the renovations plans for village hall being close to completion.

Shifting back to the park, McDonald said “it’s a city park – the city needs to address it and pay for” immediate safety issues.

He also suggested the Fourth of July Celebration Committee consider putting some funds toward the park.

“We’ll find the funds for the park” McDonald said.

“It’s hard to make up your mind between two crown jewels of Delano,” Stolfa added.

McDonald asked if there were any dollars in the park fund to address the immediate safety issues. He also suggested city staff look what funds may be available from municipal liquor store proceeds.

Brazelton said she hopes a way can be worked out so both projects can move forward. Hotchkiss said he couldn’t make a decision without any numbers or details, and the request was tabled by the city council for the time being.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• approved the quarterly financial report for the Crow River Villa Apartments for the third quarter of fiscal year 2009-10.

• agreed to purchase two computers for the Delano Fire Department/Delano Fire Relief Association at an amount not to exceed $2,000. These funds will come from capital improvement funds.

• approved a resolution regarding monetary limits on municipal tort liability.

This caps what municipalities can be liable for according to state statute.

Cities obtaining liability coverage from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust must decide whether or not to waive the statutory tort liability limits to the extent of the coverage provided.

• entered into closed session to discuss eminent domain at 206 Babcock Boulevard West (Leland and Sons Auto).

Upon returning to open session, Kern said no action was taken by the council, and a follow-up meeting was set for Tuesday, Feb. 9.

The council also discussed litigation regarding the northwest interceptor project. Kern said a settlement had been reached, but further details were not available at press time.

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