Park plans take a step back

ABOVE: The current state of the north parking lot at Gomsrud Park in Fairmont. While the city council on Monday agreed that the parking lot needs upgrades, it was more concerned with the current state of the boat ramp at the park.

FAIRMONT– Two new faces were part of the Fairmont City Council meeting on Monday as it was the first meeting for both new city clerk Betsy Steuber and city administrator Matt Skaret. The two were part of the nearly three hour meeting that included a packed agenda as council members considered various items ranging from parking lot improvements to filling a new vacancy on the Charter Commission.

Perhaps the most contentious subject discussed by the council on Monday was the consideration of approving a design option for the Gomsrud Park north parking lot, which has been a conversation among the council for several years.

Public Works Director Matthew York provided a brief history of the project. He shared that in May of 2022 the city signed a contract with SGA Group for planning, concept, schematic designs and community engagement for Gomsrud Park improvements.

“That process took about seven months and they came back to the council on January 9 (2023) with a concept design,” York said.

The concept design led to Bolton & Menk being awarded a contract in February 2023 for project administration, coordination, field data collection, etc.

SGA Group held a few public input sessions on the matter and at the Interlaken Heritage Days celebration that summer about 150 comments were given about the project and over 100 responses were also collected through an online survey.

“A final presentation was given to the Park Board in 2023,” York said. “That final concept that got moved forwarded had 10 pull-through boat trailer parking spots, eight regular parking spots and an additional shelter house,” York said.

He said that three goals came out of phase one, which were to redevelop the parking lot, redevelop the boat trailer parking area and to install a multi-use trail system.

Next, Troy Nemmers, an engineer with Bolton & Menk, went over the four options that the engineering firm came up with for the redesign.

“One of the underlying goals of the project when it was started was to really develop a cost effective design that would maximize parking but also meet all of these requirements,” Nemmers said.

These include Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) requirements for stormwater and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requirements and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements.

“As we looked at all of these requirements, we also did soil borings on the site to see what the condition of the soil was and as many suspected it’s not good material under the existing parking lot,” Nemmers said.

Because of that he said a mill and overlay on the surface of the parking lot wouldn’t be a good option.

At the April 8 council meeting, Wes Brown with Bolton & Menk presented a potential design to move forward with but following that presentation Nemmers said that many comments have been given about the boat trailer parking lot so Bolton & Menk has been working with city staff since then to come up with several options for a final concept design. On Monday Nemmers presented four to the council.

Option one would add 25 total parking spots including four pull-through and seven vehicle parking spots. It would result in an almost 14 percent decrease in impervious coverage.

Option two is similar to the design presented on April 8 with a variation in the drive aisle from 25 feet to 35 feet. Nemmers said 35 feet is very close to the size of the back out stalls at Ward park.

Option three would provide the most pull-through parking spots at 16 but would reduce the amount of trailer parking spots.

“A sacrifice to this one is you lose all of your vehicle parking and the handicap accessible stall that was planned with the other two layouts,” Nemmers said.

Option four would be a combination of one and three with 14 pull-through spots and seven vehicle parking spots. It would decrease the impervious area by 5.3 percent.

York summarized the four options and said that estimated cost of the project was $1,060,000 but now ranges from $1,065,000 to $1,147,100.

Council Member Randy Lubenow asked about the stormwater basin that takes up some of the pull-through parking spots. He asked whether anything could be done about it. Nemmers said the size of the stormwater basin could be changed to accommodate more parking spots.

“That’s what we’re trying to weigh– what is the goal of council’s. Is it the number of parking stalls or purely the operation of stalls,” Nemmers said.

Council Member Britney Kawecki questioned both the cost and the design. She said, “the citizens asked for 10 pull-through stalls and eight vehicle stalls.”

She said that she has seen many people utilize the gravel parking lot at the park and that she thought the designs were made with the Fourth of July and max capacity in mind.

“My opinion is that we’re over designing this and it’s costing the taxpayers even more money,” Kawecki said.

Council Member Michele Miller said that she agreed with Kawecki and that she thinks the boat ramps seriously need to be addressed because she’s talked to several people who have broken their boat trailer on the city’s ramp.

Miller said she had shared some thoughts with York and that she didn’t particularly like any of the four design options.

York said that from what he heard, more parking spots were needed.

“Do we want to design it for the Fourth of July, or for almost any other day of the year? That’s what we don’t know what the city council wants,” York said of city staff.

Kawecki said she would like to move forward with what the citizens asked for which she said is 10 pull-through spots and eight vehicle spots at a lower cost. She made a motion to have Bolton & Menk redesign the lot to accommodate more pull-through spots (10 to 15) and eight vehicle spots, while also repositioning the storm basin.

York said that if the concept needs to be redesigned it would not be bid this year as they would need to start from scratch.

“If it can’t go out for bid this year, then it can’t go out for bid. Ultimately we’re here to listen to what the people want and the people aren’t happy,” Kawecki said.

She said she believed the issue needed to be tabled and that the council should hold a work session on the matter.

Lubenow noted that Gomsrud Park is the most-used boat area and that he didn’t want to screw up the project. He agreed that tabling it was a good option.

Kawecki made a new motion to get new estimates on two boat launches, solid concrete boat launches and slat boat launches as provided by the DNR. She also made a motion to table the subject and plan a work session to discuss further. Both motions passed.

Moving to other matters, the council heard from Skaret who said that Jon Davis, chairperson of the Fairmont Charter Commission, has submitted his letter of resignation to a district judge. Skaret said that direction from the council was needed to go about filling the vacancy.

“You do have the option of choosing from an existing list of applicants or seeking new applicants,” Skaret said.

Lubenow said he wanted to request new applicants because he’s heard “through the grapevine” that there may be several more people resigning.

“I agree with that,” said Miller.

The council unanimously approved a motion to put out a public notice looking for new applicants for the Charter Commission.

In other news:

— Finance Director Paul Hoye presented details on the first quarter financial report for 2024.

— The council adopted the departmental fee schedule for city services.

— The council awarded a bid of $1,346,700, the low bid, to Mensing Construction for the Park Street Reconstruction Project

— The council passed a resolution giving host approval to the issuance of the city of Welcome Senior Housing Revenue Note.

— The council awarded the Memorial Park bridge project to ICON Constructors, LLC. While grants fund a portion of the project the local share is estimated to be about $85,000.


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