by Dennis Dalman
The city’s costs for operating the Sartell Community Center came up for discussion at the last City Council meeting.
According to Sartell Financial Director Heidi Ostlie, the city’s operational cost is expected to be about $210,000 through this calendar year.
Council member David Peterson said he would like to know how that compares with the costs of operating the parks in Sartell. He proposed a five-year plan to study city expenses for the community center and the parks and then compare those costs and perhaps adjust them so that the city is not spending proportionately more on the center compared with the parks. Peterson noted that public-private partnerships have kept the city’s share of costs down on the city’s recreational amenities, such as ball field rental fees at Pinecone Central Park and contributions from individuals and businesses.
Rentals also contribute to the costs of running the community center, such as rentals for its several gymnasiums.
Council member Pat Lynch said he sees no need for a five-year plan. The center, he noted, has only been open for about a year. It will take some time before people gain awareness about the availability of meeting room rentals at the center and for the center to become a choice place for rentals for large events.
Council member Mike Chisum said it’s not fair to compare open parks with the center’s interior uses. He said the city should find out why meeting room rentals at the center are not up to what they should be. Is the catering policy dissuading groups from renting there?, he asked. Meals must be catered into the center, not cooked on the premises.
Council member Ryan Fitzthum agreed some kind of long-range expenses plan should be considered. But first, he said, there should be workshop session between the council and the center’s management team to explore marketing strategies. Then, after a yearlong review has been done, a longer-range plan could begin, said Fitzthum.
Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll said that within eight months the center had met anticipated revenues. More public awareness of the meeting rooms will take some time, she added.
The council seemed to come to an agreement that a yearly analysis of operating costs should be done to include how the center is marketed by its management team.