Council considers shelter house

ABOVE: Veterans Park on the north end of Fairmont. The city council has been discussing putting an up an open-air shelter at the park.

FAIRMONT– In addition to discussing parking lot and boat launch improvements at Gomsrud Park, the Fairmont City Council on Monday talked about the possibility of putting an open-air shelter at Veteran’s Park. The project had been discussed at previous council meetings.

“We do believe it’s a good project but the problem lies within the site itself,” said Public Works Director, Matthew York.

He pointed out that the park stands on the grounds of the former Fairmont Junior High School, which burned down in 1969.

“The building was demolished and covered up with dirt and grass,” York said.

Several photos were put on display via powerpoint which showed different debris including steel pipes and concrete bricks which were dug up just three feet under the surface.

However, York said there was a request made for a slab on grade construction, which he said is allowed for full, closed structures. But the open-air structure is a different story.

“In order to do the anchored piers, we’d need to get down through the debris field to some sort of virgin soil so that we have some stabilization of those piers,” York said.

After talking to Bolton & Menk engineers, York said he figured that it would cost about $115,00 for the equipment. They would also need to do asbestos removal from the ground and hire a company to do the work.

“Ultimately we’ve come up with a cost of around $155,000. We had budgeted $50,000 for this project over the last six years. In the Capital Improvement Plan we had budgeted $125,000 and in the last six years we’ve spent $45,105 so we’re shortfalled about $75,000 on this project,” York said.

He said the option to move forward with the open air structure it still there though it is more expensive than originally expected. The option of moving around the location of the shelter was also placed on the table.

Council member Randy Lubenow, who is also the Park Board liaison, said that the topic of Veterans Park comes up every year.

“I think something has been in the budget every year for it– the tennis courts, the basketball courts. To the best of my knowledge those courts have been there a long time and there’s never been a sink hole. They seem to be fairly level without much maintenance,” Lubenow said.

He said that there are only picnic tables at the park and no grills and that he didn’t feel like it was very welcoming like other parks in the city.

“I understand that because of the debris field it is more of a challenge,” he said of the shelter construction.

Lubenow also said that if a walled-in shelter was cheaper, he was open to that option.

Council Member Britney Kawecki also said she believed moving the shelter to a better location on the site could be an option.

“There’s a lot of activity there and a lot of families that utilize that park. Trying to put all of our resources into Gomsrud Park I don’t think is fair and I think that it’s time that we invest into some of the parks on the north side of Blue Earth Avenue as well,” Kawecki said.

Mayor Lee Baarts questioned whether a slab on grade walled-in structure was an option. York said that if it’s less than 1,000 square feet, they could do a closed structure. However he said it was the first time he heard anyone on the council say it was an option they wanted. He pointed that the tennis courts at the park are in dire need of repair, as are the sidewalks around the edge of the park.

“If picnic tables and grills are what the park needs to become more user-friendly, that’s a better cost-friendly option than a structure which we have no idea how much will cost,” York said.

Ultimately, after some more discussion, Kawecki made a motion to table the matter and to direct city staff to get an estimate of a slab on grade closed shelter similar to what’s at Ward’s Park to compare to the open-air shelter cost. The motion passed.


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