Park Board: Well as anybody could expect

The Minot Park Board met in a new location Tuesday evening, in the conference area of the Roosevelt Park Zoo’s new visitor center. Tabled beneath the glassy gaze of a taxidermied mountain lion, discussions opened with a clarification concerning the future of Minot’s tennis courts. $10,000 had been earmarked for a project that would add five courts, but is to be used only after sites are evaluated and the best site is determined. Several architects are being interviewed, people “who can actually get it done and in a timely manner for us,” explained Minot parks director Ron Merritt. Pending the inspection, Hammond Park is the indicated spot for additional courts.

Despite the absence of members John Drady and Connie Feist, with no special personal appearances the meeting was not a long one. The golf course committee had a low bid from Yamaha for 40 new gas-powered carts for about $15,200 annually, to replace the current fleet of 32 best described as “used and very-used.”

Asked whether current storage facilities would be sufficient for the additional carts, golf course superintendent Kim Knatterud replied “She’ll be tight, but they’ll all be inside. The only thing we’ll be responsible for will be one oil change per year, at about $120.” Yamaha will be responsible for replacement parts and maintenance under the terms of the plan. Other than oil and gas, “under warranty it really should be trouble-free” for the city, Knatterud said. The board voted unanimously in favor of the bid.

Requests by Minot Public Schools to hold both a state and regional cross-country running tournaments at the Souris Valley Golf Course were briefly discussed. The meets would be held in October of this and next year. “It would essentially shut down the course for a day,” noted Merritt, “but it’s late in the season.”

“It’s a community service we’re providing, it’s an excellent venue, and I think it’s something we should consider,” added Cliff Hovda, before the board voted its approval.

After searching and researching for nearly a year, the zoo committee announced it has decided on OmniTicket Networking to provide its new point-of-sale terminals. The $30,142 base cost would be covered by funds allocated by the Greater Minot Zoological Society, and an additional $16,000 for networking and training expenses would come from the $25,000 received from Reader’s Digest last year. A new system is needed, as previous POS systems lacked the ability to efficiently allocate monies charged for zoo and park admissions to their different accounts. “A credit card processor doesn’t want the liability of having to split a single purchase into two different accounts,” explained the zoo’s education coordinator Jennifer Fry.

In addition, the more modern system is QuickBooks compliant, which can generate reports that make the process quicker while reducing the margin of error. It would also help track the types of purchases of the more than 80,000 visitors the zoo estimated were annually coming before the 2011 flood, which would improve efficiency and help increase sales.

The other benefit is cheapness. “We have a 50% discount on the base price now that might not wait for us in a year,” warned zoo director David Merritt. “We need to make a commitment now.”

OmniTicket would provide the infrastructure to connect the systems, and if it proves useful additional terminals can be added in future at low cost. The Florida-based company estimates that it could comfortably have its system customized to meet the park’s needs and installed by June. However, after some discussion it was decided that training for the new program would best be left for later in the season when visitation is less hectic.

The Roosevelt Park Zoo will also be setting up a wireless network for $3,359, and for an additional $8,015 will install a security system with several cameras meant to monitor the zoo’s concession areas.

“It’s my understanding that the concession stand has in the past been the subject of mischief, or vandalism,” David Merritt explained. This particular system is rearrangeable, and more cameras can be added to the network cheaply if needed. Both the security and wireless networks would be funded by GMZS grant funds.

The board approved the proposals, but Robert Petry first shared his concern: “Security is important, but also privacy is important. Personally I don’t like the idea of cameras everywhere. Three cameras is alright now, but any additional cameras will have to come through this board.”

“Well this is a good evening! We have items being proposed that are already paid for,” joked Cliff Hovda, before the parks committee put forward a bid for new pool furniture from Winston Contract Furniture for about $15,161. In keeping with the trend, the funds were already covered by insurance money related to flood damage. And a new wheel-loader the department is bidding on will cost the city $2,000 less than anticipated.

Having been described at length at a previous meeting, little discussion was needed to approve construction of a nature playground at Oak Park’s Camp Owetti area. The proposal earned supportive comments from around the board at its mention, with a few technical questions about the mulch that would be used and what a weaving trail consists of. (A weaving trail would be a series of meandering stumps no more than 16 inches high that can be navigated for balance.) The four stations so far planned will have their “Grand Opening” at the state Arbor Day celebrations next April. The playground would be built by the forestry department, at low cost and with nominal disturbance to the park itself.

Brian Mathson of city maintenance also announced the hiring of two new employees, including a new mechanic. Despite applications from across the country, the hirees are both local. “Once they hear about the cost of living, they become disinterested really quickly,” Mathson said of out-of-state applicants. “Some expect $20 an hour; we can’t pay that.”

Toward the meeting’s conclusion, Ron Merritt summed up the state of things in his director’s report: “Projects are moving along, we’re putting out a lot of bids, and we’re doing about as well as anybody could expect.”