Park Board seeks cut of revenue
FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Park Board went on record this week to request that the City Council set aside a percentage of the local option sales tax receipts for parks and trails.
Councilman Jim Zarling, who serves as liaison to the board, brought up the issue in March, and board members discussed and disagreed with the intended use of the half-cent tax that voters approved last November. Some supported using a portion of the funds for parks and trails while others insisted its sole purpose is to finance a proposed community center. The issue was tabled.
“It’s not a personal issue with me. It’s my job as liaison,” Zarling said. He cautioned the board that not taking action to advocate for a portion of the tax funds could impact future projects. “As Local Government Aid continues to shrink, it’s local capital projects that take a beating.”
Board member Craig Nelson repeated his disapproval of the “poorly worded” ballot, which stated that the tax money would be used for “the purpose of funding recreational amenities, trails and/or a Fairmont Community Center.” The wording allows for other uses of the money if a community center does not become a reality.
“I really feel the measure was put out there for a city center,” he said. “It was rushed to the ballot, and I really feel the other things were put in to get more votes.” He believes nothing should be done with the money for the first year to allow time to evaluate how much money would be coming in.
The local option sales tax could be in effect as early as November. Estimates predict the city will collect about $15 million over the 25-year term of the tax.
“I feel we should keep our foot in the door, but I don’t know what a fair amount would be,” said board member Greg Gellert.
Zarling suggested the board could ask for an unspecified amount.
“You could pass a motion to encourage the City Council to give a percentage to parks and trails. Now would be the time to let the council know that,” Zarling said.
On a motion from Gellert and a second from Jane Kollofski, the board approved the measure by a 3-1 vote. Mary Don Kislingbury voted in support of the motion, while Nelson opposed it.
In another matter, the board voted to raise the rental fee for the Sylvania Park shelter house from $50 to $75. The board had relocated its meeting from its normal City Hall venue to the newly remodeled Sylvania shelter house, giving members a chance to view the finished project.
Parks and streets superintendent Nick Lardy said $45,000 was budgeted for the upgrades which included new kitchen appliances, counters, roof, deck, windows, paint and central air and heat. He said increasing the rental fee would bring it on par with the fee for the Cedar Creek Park shelter house which was renovated last year. He noted that the Cedar Creek shelter house is occupied almost every weekend and summer holiday, the Sylvania site still has open slots.
In her monthly update, CER director Roni Dauer relayed the numerous summer activities planned for people of all ages. The free summer playground program, which earned high praise last year, will return for its second year, running from June 6 through Aug. 10. More information is available on CER’s Facebook page or by calling (507) 235-3141.
The board also heard a presentation from Shelly Krahmer and Paul Spencer, members of the accessible playground task force. Krahmer distributed drawings of the proposed playground showing its unique design and layout for multi-generational use by people of all physical and cognitive abilities. Fundraising efforts are getting underway, with hopes of raising about $450,000 through private and corporate donations and grants.