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Paynesville Press - June 9, 2004

City puts priority on aquatic park, trail

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

Facing three proposed recreational projects - an aquatic park, the Lake Koronis Trail, and a nature preserve - the Paynesville City Council held a special meeting last week to discuss their finance options and set their priorities.

The council decided to give prioriity to the aquatic park, which could be brought to another vote in the city and township in November, and to the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail, which should receive a federal grant that requires a matching local match. The council decided to concentrate on the aquatic park and on the trail since time and energy have already been spent on these projects.

The city has a three-year option with Mary Hahn to purchase 119 acres around Kruger Lake to develop a nature park. The city has applied for a DNR grant to help pay for this $200,000 purchase but may ask Hahn for an extension on their purchase option.

The consensus of council members at the meeting last week indicated that building an aquatic park held the top priority among the city's recreational projects. The aquatic park may have the biggest economic impact to the city, council member Jean Soine stated in written comments to the council. Also, the city has already committed to assisting Paynesville Township in building the trail, she added.

Council member Dave Peschong agreed, saying the city needed to finish projects to which it has committed - the aquatic park and the trail - before starting new ones - the purchase of the parcel around Kruger Lake.

The original estimate for an aquatic park was $1.25 million, but this proposal was rejected by city and township voters in April. The initial construction was proposed to be split 62 percent for the city to 38 percent for the township based on the population ratio between the two entities. The city was going to bond for $775,000 towards the initial construction while the township swas bonding for $475,000 for the project.

But the township contribution towards the project was fixed at that amount, and, subtracting bonding costs, plus higher costs since the project will be bid later, the city would be responsible for any cost overruns in the aquatic park construction plus operating costs.

If referendums are placed again on the November ballot, the city and the township will need to determine whether to include bonding costs or whether to pay those costs out of pocket. Bonding costs were about $50,000 for the city and $30,000 for the township in April.

If the city's bonding cost is not included in the bonding, city administrator Steve Helget suggested using general fund reserves, which total $221,800, for these costs.

Council member Dennis Zimmer-man urged perseverance on the aquatic park. "If we quit now, it will never happen," he said.

The Lake Koronis Recreational Trail also holds a priority status for the city because a federal grant is expected for the next section - linking the city to the city beach and Lake Koronis. Also, according to trail consultant Jeff Bertram, it's important to complete the trail from the city to the Glacial Lakes State Trail before Highway 23 construction potentially creates another obstacle. If the trail is in place before the highway, MnDOT will be responsible for getting the trail safely across the highway.

While city leaders agreed that the trail would be an important asset to the city, it is still necessary to determine how much the city will pay for the project before determining where the money will come from.

The federal grant would pay for 80 percent of the construction costs for the trail section between the city and Lake Koronis. Out of total of construction costs of $359,200, this leaves $65,300 in construction costs for the city and township to share.

Another $97,000 in possible costs were brought to the attention of the city council last week. This includes costs not covered by the grant, such as surveying and right-of-way acquisition. Not including these costs in the original estimate was an oversight, according to Helget.

According to Bertram, it is unlikely that right-of-ways would need to be purchased, as most easements are expected to be donated. In fact, said Bertram, the local share of the trail cost could be reduced significantly by DNR grants.

Currently, the township has proposed that the city pay 75 percent of the local costs of the trail section between the city and Lake Koronis, since the township has already paid for two trail projects in the township and since this section of the trail benefits city residents directly.

Most of the council members last week, though, thought 75 percent was too high. Mayor Jeff Thompson suggested a 62-38 percent cost share based on population, just as the township requested for the aquatic park.

Helget proposed financing the city's share of the trail project with money from general fund reserves and from the park capital improvement fund, which has a balance of $105,800.

Although no official actions were taken at last week's meeting regarding any of the proposed projects, Helget was instructed to put together new estimates for the aquatic park and to open negotiations with Paynesville Township on the cost-share for the trail as the next steps in completing these projects.

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