At several open forum sessions at Sartell city council meetings in the past couple of months, residents have stepped up to the podium to urge the council to build a community center and stop the delays that have occurred for so many years.
We cannot blame those residents. For nearly 15 years, a community center was a number-one priority by residents and councils and yet, somehow, very little or no forward movement occurred.
However, not to worry. This council and its mayor are passionately committed to building a community center, and the proof is in the pudding. The step-by-step schedule and time frame approved a few months ago is moving right along, and there is no doubt at all that a center will be built, starting in 2016.
Most of the residents who spoke at open forum meetings, urging the council to move swiftly on plans for a center, were members of the Sartell Senior Connection, the city’s senior-citizen group. They want the council to reassure them there will be spacious quarters for their group within a community center. We certainly hope community-center planners make certain the facility will include a senior center. That is because in the seven years since it began, the Sartell Senior Connection has hosted an astonishing variety of activities, meetings, games, arts-and-crafts sessions, guest speakers, day trips, educational sessions, entertainment, and more. The group even developed its own lending library stocked with excellent donated used books. If any group deserves prime placement in a community center, it is that excellent, thriving group of seniors. And we have no doubt the council doesn’t need convincing because its member thinks so, too.
So far, the seniors have been meeting on school-district property. They had to move several years ago from a previous place in the District Service Building because of a major remodeling project. The group meets in another part of that building, which is adequate for now, but there is no doubt that space will, too, be needed for school uses in the not-too-distant future.
Other groups, besides the seniors, will also make their needs and wants known to the community-center task force and to the council.
It is a pleasure to hear residents, like Sartell’s seniors, address the council about a community center. Their sense of urgency, their excitement, is palpable as they become convinced that, yes indeed, a center will become a reality fairly soon.
The one fear, as one resident said at a council meeting, is that the center might turn out to be too small, with no way to expand. We hope that doesn’t happen. The council must commit to spending enough regional sales-tax money to make it a more-than-adequate facility, and we have no reason to believe the council won’t do just that.
In the meantime, another good step among recent steps toward progress is the appointment of HMA Architects to help plan and design the center. That architectural firm, based in St. Cloud, has created outstanding, functional, beautiful structures of all kinds in Sartell and in the greater St. Cloud area. The council made a wise decision in hiring HMA because now we can all be assured of a superb – and beautifully designed – Sartell Community Center.