by Mike Knaak
St. Joseph leaders and area legislators have tried for years to secure state funding for a community center.
That effort may have gotten a boost Sept. 4 when members of the House Capital Investment Committee visited St. Joseph.
Legislation introduced by Rep. Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) and Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) seeks $2.5 million in state bonding money for the community center, which would be built as a renovation and expansion of the former Kennedy School.
The city plans to contribute $6 million from sales tax revenue with another $6 million coming from donations.
Mayor Rick Schultz led representatives and staff through the building explaining in detail what the center would look like.
The planned 40,000-square-foot center would host space for residents off all ages. Before the tour, Jerry and Patty Wetterling spoke to the visitors about the need for a youth center and what has been a 40-year dream. The Jacob Wetterling Recreational Center would be part of the complex with recreational and gathering space. Jacob was abducted and killed in 1989 but the case was not solved until 2016.
In addition to seeing the space and hearing plans for it, the visiting legislators asked questions about programming and other available recreation and community resources. Schultz told the group about the new Kennedy Community School on the south side of the city, but explained that students go to high school in St. Cloud and that the nearest YMCA is at least a 20-minute drive away.
The community center project is one of three legislative bonding requests. Demuth and Howe introduced bills this session asking for $300,000 for East Park and $1.5 million for a pedestrian crossing at CR 75. Similar measures were introduced in the previous legislative session but failed to win approval in the 2018 bonding bill.
Demuth and Schultz said of the three requests, the community center is the city’s top priority.
The bonding bills will be considered by the committee when the Legislature meets again starting Feb. 11, 2020.