By Liz Hackenmueller
FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, MN An apparent change in direction for park planning landed the Franklin Township board under fire from Wally Johnson, a member of the township’s park subcommittee, at the Sept. 2 meeting.
“I don’t know which option is the best option for a park, and neither do you,” Johnson said.
In June, the board had agreed to move forward with analyzing two options for creating a park using park-dedicated funds.
The options were: A) a 33-acre parcel currently owned by a private party in Franklin Township; or B) a 12-acre parcel owned currently by the Delano Sportsmen’s Club. These options were the two primary options agreed upon by the township’s park subcommittee and the Wright County Park Commission.
However, during the August Franklin Township meeting, the board approved funds to proceed with the study for Option B only.
“I am extremely disappointed that a decision was made by this board in August, excluding Option A,” Johnson said.
Johnson also said he was not even aware the park issue would be discussed at the August meeting, and as a member of the park subcommittee, was assured he would be advised of any meetings or discussions involving the park.
“I think it was grossly unfair and inappropriate to make a decision to pursue a study on Option B and not Option A, without referring the issue back to the entire park sub-committee that you created to provide advice and recommendations on the park,” Johnson said.
Board Chairman DeWayne Bauman assured Johnson that it was not his intention to leave Johnson or the subcommittee in the dark, claiming he hadn’t realized the park was on the August agenda until he arrived at the meeting.
Then, when the park was discussed, the information was not what the board had expected, according to Bauman.
“We thought both studies were done, but they were not,” Bauman said.
What was presented at the August meeting was a letter from SGA Group, Inc., the landscape architecture and planning firm, asking for approval to move forward with the study for Option B at a cost of $4,000.
“It was just another step,” Board Member John Czanstkowski said, citing that moving forward with a study on Option B did not mean there wouldn’t also be one done on Option A.
“We are still under the impression there will be two studies,” Bauman said.
Johnson pushed the board for commitment that a study on Option A would, in fact, be done.
In order to proceed with a study on Option A, the board will need to ask SGA to submit another proposal with the cost estimate, according to Board Member Denise Olson.
There was also considerable discussion about whether Option A or Option B would ultimately be the best place for a park.
Johnson stated he has been a strong proponent of Option A since the beginning, and there are reasons it was listed as the first option by the Wright County Park Commission, according to Johnson.
The potential to build baseball fields in the park was also mentioned. Delano City Council Member Dan Vick was in attendance and clarified that he has brought up that idea before only as one possibility.
“I’m only suggesting fields because I thought it would be good idea for the four entities to come together ... and save the communities money in the long run,” Vick said. The four entities include the Delano School District, City of Delano, Franklin Township, and Wright County.
Regardless of the ideas and opinions about the potential park and its site, it appears those discussions will be tabled until studies are performed on both sites.
However, nothing could be formally approved during the Sept. 2 meeting because there wasn’t yet a proposal from SGA Group to move forward with the study for Option A.
At the end of the meeting, Bauman said he would follow up with Wright County Parks Administrator Marc Mattice.