Committee volleys over courts

The Minot Park Board’s administration committee met Wednesday at the Roosevelt Park Zoo’s visitor center, with a look to future expansion. Large on the agenda was discussion of a permanent marketing and development position, something other park districts in the state already make use of.

Commissioner Connie Feist led the discussion, making the case for the additional post.

“We need someone dedicated to growing this district,” she said. “We want to have more of a presence, getting the word out to the community” through more effective marketing. “But the development end of it is as important as the marketing. It’s a 50-50 job split, as I see it.”

As proposed, the position would consolidate development planning, application for grants to fund new projects, setting strategic and long-term goals, and the various marketing duties Minot’s park services require. The salary would range between $40,000 and $70,000, “pretty standard” for similar positions and dependent on a person’s qualifications and experience, explained parks director Ron Merritt.

Commissioner Richard Sabol had some reservations with the additional position.

“I’m a little hesitant at hiring someone right away. We should look at some other options first,” he said, suggesting that perhaps the assistance of the college or an internship might be workable.

“We did have an internship position that worked really well,” said Merritt, adding that despite this the duties of long-term planning, applying for grants and the marketing involved are too much to saddle an individual internship with. “Projects require long-term planning and grants take time. I think it would be best left to a permanent position,” he said.

“The salary wouldn’t be so much of a hang-up,” responded Feist. “Even if two of the grants under consideration were accepted, the position would pay for itself. I think the time has come actually I think it’s past come,” she emphasized. “An intern could do it for three months then leave, and then we would start over from there.” Feist went on to say such a course would be “a disservice” to the community.

Ultimately the matter was set aside for further discussion at the full board meeting next Tuesday evening. Also on the agenda was the ongoing discussion on the proposed expansion of the tennis facilities at Hammond Park. The plan currently under consideration would have the basketball courts moved across the street from their current situation, with the eight tennis courts increased to 10.

Randy Burckhard, who is heading the city’s flood recovery, explained that four different proposals have been given for consideration. Weighing the desired timeframe with the experience, qualifications and availability of the interested contractors, Burckhard recommended for the project Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services Inc., of Minot. “This would serve us best,” he concluded. “The total scope of work could vary a bit depending on what we choose,” with a possible parking lot (space-permitting) and electrical work to light at least two courts for evening play.

Commissioner Cliff Hovda does not sit on the administration committee, but along with commissioner Robert Petry attended its meeting. He added that he was inclined to agree that Hammond is the best location for the expanded courts being naturally sheltered from the wind and in a quiet, but accessible neighborhood but that he would think it best to explore other options as well. There are other experts to consult, and possible grant funding to be applied for.

“At this point in time, I’d be reluctant to move it somewhere else,” said Sabol, who also felt it would be prudent to take more time to consider the proposal. While agreeing that Hammond so far seems the most ideal location, he suggested more time to explore alternatives would be best. The committee agreed to discuss the matter further next week.

“I know the tennis community is really looking forward to getting some courts back,” stated Feist, “and understandably so.”

If agreed upon at next Tuesday’s board meeting, Burckhard expects work to begin immediately and believes it can be completed by the coming autumn. “Hopefully it works out that way,” he admitted, bearing in mind that high school girls tennis begins in the fall and that the school programs are planning on holding a tournament in May 2014. In the meantime, he will use the next few days to get additional input from pertinent user groups.

Residents of the Hammond Park neighborhood were also in attendance, toward the end of the meeting raising concerns about taking steps to address concerns about increased traffic particularly that of people’s pets. One resident in particular felt his front yard was becoming both a rest stop and cruising ground for cats and dogs. The committee agreed that the area could benefit from better signage.

Master planning was also discussed, with a brief exchange on the payables report. Initial plans for a proposed open green space with wetlands, trails, and bridges in the vicinity of 55th Street were introduced as well. The proposal will be discussed in greater detail at next week’s meeting.