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SSP slates first parks referendum in 20 years
A lot of people are willing to pay $8 a month to stream movies from the Internet into their homes, but would they put the same amount toward a new baseball field just outside?
That’s the question that will be put to South St. Paul voters next February after the council approved a parks and recreations referendum in its Aug. 20 meeting that would pay for an array of new and improved amenities at Kaposia Landing, McMorrow Field and Wakota Arena.
The vote, scheduled for Feb. 11, 2014, would authorize $10 million in spending to overhaul two of the city’s flagship parks as well as the 50-year-old ice arena. City staff estimate a homeowner with a property valued at $150,000 would pay an additional $98 per year in taxes over the course of the 20-year bonds, or around $8.18 per month. The last time South St. Paul residents voted on a parks and recreation referendum was 1990.
The largest share of the expense -- $5.5 million -- would go to Kaposia Landing if approved. That money would add a “wheel” of softball fields -- four full-sized field arranged in a circle -- and one baseball field, along with a new concessions and restroom facility. The Kaposia Landing plans also call for a new picnic area with an outdoor performance venue, a secondary off-leash dog park and additional parking areas to accommodate an expected increase in park usage.
With the additional baseball and softball fields at Kaposia, McMorrow Field’s four softball fields and tennis courts would be removed and replaced with four soccer fields and one football field.
The reconstruction would also relocate and expand the play area for younger children and add off-street parking for a total estimated cost of $2.4 million.
Finally, the referendum would pay for $2.2 million in mechanical upgrades and remodeling at Wakota Civic Arena. Designs for the arena, approved by the council in its Aug. 5 meeting, call for expanded locker rooms and bathrooms as well as the installation of a more modern cooling system for the arena’s two ice sheets.
‘A good plan’
Parks and Recreation Director Chris Esser explained to the council at the Aug. 20 meeting that estimated cost of the mechanical work at Wakota Arena had pushed the total price tag of the referendum higher than originally anticipated.
“We had tried to keep it under $10 million, but the addition of the glycol pipe (coolant delivery) relocation pushed us up over the $10 million mark,” Esser said.
The council, however, praised the finished product put forth by the parks department for its feasibility and sensitivity to residents’ requests.
Council member Dan Niederkorn, who had voted against the Wakota Arena designs due to cost concerns, said he supported the overall referendum because he believed it moved South St. Paul in the right direction.
“I had some serious concerns about it, but that’s under the bridge,” Niederkorn said. “I’m going to vote for this because I do want it to go forward, I do want to improve our parks, I do want us to approve the Wakota plans.”
Council member Todd Podgorski echoed Niederkorn’s support, but added that the final say on all of the improvements belonged to residents.
“I think overall it’s a good plan,” Podgorski said. “Hopefully the community will like it, the user groups will like it and we’ll be able to get a good result in February as ultimately it is a voter-approved initiative.”
Luke Reiter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 651-748-7815.