by Logan Gruber
Members of the city council, park board, economic development authority and planning commission, as well as representatives of the facilities task force and aquatics amenity committee gathered together at the community fire hall to make sure everyone was on the same page Monday, Feb. 23.
“For me, it’s really important our boards and commissions see each other,” said Mayor Rick Schultz, beginning the meeting.
Schultz said he likes to call a meeting like this about once a year. About 30 people were in attendance Monday night, most of them from boards and commissions, but there was a sprinkling of regular residents as well.
Schultz had asked each board, commission, committee and task force to make a small presentation on what they had been up to, and what they foresee happening in their sphere over the course of 2015.
Facilities task force
The facilities task force was created after some serious turbulence was encountered over the city hall/community center issue. The task force has a few council members on it, as well as a number of residents.
An outside facilitator was brought in to help guide the task force to a common understanding, and bring a recommendation from the community to the council. The city hired Phil Barnes of WSB and Associates Inc. to facilitate. WSB is based out of Minneapolis, but has an office in St. Cloud. One of the many services they offer is guiding community planning.
“I’d like to thank all the task force members,” Barnes said during his portion of the meeting. “They have been fantastic to work with.”
Barnes went on to explain how the task force worked.
“My role was to comment and make sense out of everything, to reach a common understanding,” Barnes said.
He said the task force began by forming a vision statement – which they would strive to live up to – which read: “St. Joseph’s facilities align with the city’s needs, and are successful because they support a growing and diverse community and tax base, while providing an engaging, sustainable and affordable way to enhance community interaction and communication between citizens and government.”
The task force began to develop its priorities, taking ideas from residents who weren’t on the task force but came to the meetings, and also went on tours of current government buildings, notably of the police department.
After a few meetings, the concerns were broken down, and a “vote-able” recommendation was reached that the task force will eventually bring to the council, possibly in March.
Basically, the task force will recommend the city move forward with a community center facility first. The most important part of the center would be a multi-purpose gym, according to a memo from Barnes and the task force. The gym would be an open space for basketball, volleyball walking and more. Another need identified for the community center is a multi-purpose room for community gatherings, lectures, dances, classes and more. A library-type space is also recommended, but one that does not require full-time staffing. The location of the community center is also of importance, as listed in the memo. It should be accessible to those with disabilities, as well as those without vehicles.
The second item the task force recommends the city move forward on is police facilities. Listed as priorities are: evidence space, interview space, a changing room, storage space and a safe environment for victims. The task force also recognized the need for facilities for the city administration, but felt the community center and police facilities take precedence.
The task force also recommends sound financial decisions and planning, and realizes the community center and police facility may need to be created in phases.
The full recommendation should soon be available on the city website, at cityofstjoseph.com.
Aquatics amenity committee
Tom Schaffer of U.S. Aquatics, an aquatic consulting and design firm out of Delano, was on hand to present a possible design for a water amenity for the city. U.S. Aquatics has created water amenities for other cities, including Gaylord and Owatonna.
The committee had met five times thus far, and Schaffer said it’s still a work in progress.
“The pool committee is seeing this for the first time, just the same as you are,” Schaffer said.
The concept Schaffer presented was quite complex. Included were: a multi-use pool with a one- and three-meter diving board; grass lounge areas; a lazy river; three water slides; rental tents; water geysers and an aqua fort on a splash pad; a covered seating area; changing rooms; a concession stand and shade structures.
Schaffer said the facility would be projected to be used between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and the design he was showing included heated water.
One citizen asked whether the amount of water needed might put a strain on the city’s water supply, but Schaffer stated once the pools are filled in the spring, the water is simply recycled all summer long.
The next step for the aquatics amenity committee is to settle on a final design, get a cost estimate, and then bring it to the city council for a vote. Possible locations have been discussed, but have not been made public yet.
Randy Sabart, the city engineer, went into detail on several potential public and private projects for 2015.
Potential private projects include development of: the Parkway Business Center on CR 133; Sunset Ridge Phase 2 on CR 2; the Rothfork/Flynn property on Jasmine Lane; Central Minnesota Credit Union on Elm Street; Bayou Alley Flats downtown; River’s Bend Plat 3 Subdivision to the west of Kennedy Elementary; and, the CLC development project on the edge of town, past Kennedy Elementary.
The CLC development project will likely be a set of rural homes on larger lots, potentially without city sewer access, Sabart said, while the River’s Bend Subdivision would be normal city-sized lots, and have access to sewer. Bayou Alley Flats is a planned restaurant/apartment/condo complex across from city hall. CMCU has plans to build an administrative center across Elm Street north of McDonald’s, moving some of their operation here from Melrose. Sunset Ridge Phase 2 is a follow up to Phase 1. And the Parkway Business Center is being looked at to potentially be added to city sewer and power, to make it more attractive for businesses to build.
Potential or real public projects for 2015 include: Clinton Village and Northland street resurfacing; and, downtown alley and parking improvement.
The city has met with downtown business owners about possibly redoing the alley and parking areas between College Avenue and 1st Avenue, and Ash Street and Minnesota Street. The city plans to continue to meet with downtown business owners to find a way to reach a consensus.
Chair of the park board, John Anderson, also spoke. He said the park board was looking into adding restrooms to Klinefelter Park, as well as additional trails in and throughout the city. Sabart said a trail may be built this year connecting Minnesota Street with CR 2, and Minnesota Street to CR 51 south of the interstate.