Council needs to reconsider arena plans

Mike KnaakLetter to the EditorLeave a Comment

Joe Perske, Sartell

The recent decision by the Sartell City Council to use $1.5 million of city funds for the construction of a second sheet of ice at Pinecone Regional Park needs transparency and reconsideration.  The proposed plan also includes the demolition of the existing park shelter and removal of the existing outdoor rink.

Pinecone Regional Park was designed for the whole community to last for many years and came with development costs of more than $1 million. The expensively built shelter/warming house was constructed to provide recreational enjoyment year-round in the park. The rink provided the opportunity for all city kids to skate, including those who do not have the financial ability to play organized hockey. The June 8 decision eliminates any skating opportunities on the west side of the river and leaves the public with less skating ice than we had almost 30 years ago when I came to Sartell.

The $1.5-million commitment also comes as a reckless, impulsive same-day reaction to a request lacking any public scrutiny or input. The request took all of the remaining half-cent sales-tax dollars totaling $450,000 committed through 2038. Could the council and mayor have thought about the existing needs and promises unkept with regard to the whole community? What about the community pool, park amenities or the skate park, to name just a few, the community has been requesting during the past decades? An estimated $480,000 taken from the dollars for the golf-course lease was also committed for the arena expansion plan. Those dollars had originally been earmarked for the continued development of Pinecone Central Park amenities, including use by the baseball association to improve and maintain the fields.

Finally, we have to evaluate the use of our city resources and who should benefit from those dollars. Having taught in Sartell for more than 25 years, my focus was always on all of the students in the classroom and not just a few. Coming from a family of seven children, I also appreciated seeing that my parents made sure we were all cared for appropriately.  They made certain we all each had one nice present at Christmas. It seems this $1.5-million investment, along with the three quarters of a million dollars spent earlier on the arena parking lot, is a pretty narrow focus to benefit a few.  I urge the council to reconsider this spending for the privileged and instead consider the needs and desires of the entire community.

Author: Mike Knaak

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