by Logan Gruber
From 9-10 a.m. April 18, St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz took some time to host a town hall meeting at the community fire hall. He was joined by six area residents, who had some good questions for him about a variety of city issues.
Most questions were directed toward the proposed St. Joseph aquatics center, but there were a few others in the mix.
At one point, a resident brought up the possible purchase of old Kennedy, now Colts Academy, from the school district.
“We’ve always been interested,” Schultz said, “we’ve never stopped negotiating with the district [to purchase Colts.]”
“Why are the discussions with the district [on Colts] closed?” Mary Ann Graeve asked.
Schultz said they were simply following Minnesota state statue, since the process is still in negotiations. Another closed meeting will be held in a week or so with the school district, Schultz said at a later time.
Ellen Wahlstrom wanted to know more about the proposed water amenity, and why if it’s so popular and such a good money-maker, why a private company wouldn’t come in and build it.
“We never said it’ll make money,” Schultz replied.
“What is the success rate of water amenity’s in small towns?” Graeve wanted to know.
Schultz said they are terribly successful, citing towns like Spring Grove, Spring Valley, Gaylord, Albert Lea and others.
“When we check other cities, we don’t want to cherry pick,” former council member Steve Frank said, “because different cities have different revenue sources.”
Graeve was also hesitant regarding the cost of getting into the water amenity, which is proposed to be $6/entry.
“It has to benefit all of our children or it’s not fair,” she said.
“Do I think $6 per head is right? No,” Schultz agreed.
Some residents also expressed concerns about other cities in the area with water features, like Waite Park’s splash pad, or cities which might build them in the future like Sartell. Schultz said Sartell in particular had shelved their plans temporarily, and once one town builds a large water amenity, there is less chance of another town doing the same thing.
“I think [the water amenity] has some merits,” Jim Graeve said. “People from Avon, Albany and Cold Spring will come here.”
But, he added, if Sartell were to build a similar amenity, or another area city did, it could be trouble. Jim also said he sees the community center and water amenity as being in competition for the half-cent sales tax money, and he thinks it’s unfair for the sales tax.
The possible location of the water amenity was also discussed. Previously the water amenity committee had suggested it be located on the north side of Hwy 75, but it has been noted by multiple people to be dangerous for pedestrians and bikers to get to.
“I’d hate to be any kid trying to cross the highway,” Schultz said of the option.
Lee Zipp was concerned about safety and cost.
“I worked in hotels for years,” Zipp said, “and you’ll have to shut down for certain days…if somebody poops in the pool, you’ll have to shut it all down.”
Zipp said since the proposed amenity would only be open 87 days a year, a shut down would significantly hurt the bottom line.
“We will shut it down,” Schultz responded, “but each pool is filtered separately, so we only have to shut down the affected area.”
To learn more about the water amenity, search the Newsleaders website at thenewsleaders.com for related articles.