Parks’ season finally under way

There was plenty to discuss for the Minot Park Board, district projects able to begin now that the snow has finally melted and with heavy rains abating. The board met Tuesday evening for the last of its meetings held at Roosevelt Park Zoo’s visitor center; from now on these will be held at the Civic Auditorium, room 204.

The board discussed future renovation of the old educational building on zoo property. Estimates for the project place the cost at around $570,000. “This number may not be the exact number, but it’s up there,” commented commissioner Robert Petry. One of the goals of the renovation is to expand the aviary and allow the building to house the zoo’s outdoor birds for the winter. The board authorized the exploration of bids for the work.

“It’ll be a neat building to walk into” when it is finished, explained parks director Ron Merritt. Sitting in on the meeting, he also had some good news for the board. The Community Foundation grant he had applied for was accepted, with the district receiving $45,000 in grant money for project concepts. The six projects will include the bandshell and multiuse shelter at Oak Park; the feline, primate, and lion exhibits at the zoo; and a possible children’s museum, with a natural resource theme.

There was a personal appearance by Minot Swim Club’s Paul Kramer, who described current concepts for a future community aquatics center. Kramer spoke as the representative for a consortium of interested parties, not limited to user groups such as the swim club but including organizations like the YMCA, Minot Public School District, Minot State University and Trinity Health. What supporters of the center want is an aquatics-dedicated facility, with a 50-meter competitive pool, diving area, warm water therapy pool, and also a recreational “splash feature.”

There are currently two schematics being considered, with “three viable locations” to so far choose from. A standalone facility has been estimated at around $32 million, while the center built as an addition to an existing facility such as the YMCA or high school might range from $20 to $25 million. In either instance, the aquatic center can be expected to require 79,000 square feet of interior space, on a property of eight acres.

The groups are in their fundraising stage, also undergoing the application process with the city for a facility tax that might be completed in October. What Kramer wanted from the Park Board was a letter of its support for the project, saying “we want to indicate who will be working on putting this forward.”

“The time has come now” for such an amenity, said board commissioner Connie Feist, adding that the project has been an identifiable need for at least a decade. However it would be developed, she stressed that “the Park District will be at the table” for the project’s planning and implementation.

There was some apprehension among the commissioners, primarily voiced by Petry. “There are an awful lot of projects that will be going to the committee already,” he cautioned, worried that the center would be another big project for the city to chew on. After some discussion the support letter was agreed upon, though its actual language will have to be decided on.

The board also:

– Decided to begin drawing up a plan for the installation of the Centennial Park statue at Via-View Park at 4th and North Broadway. The seven-foot high bronze sculpture features a pair of children bearing the American flag, originally purchased for the district’s centennial celebration but kept unused in storage due to the 2011 flood.

– Approved a second change order for bank stabilization work at the Souris River Valley Golf Course, both totalling around $84,000. The extra funds were needed due to a combination of unforeseen complications, primarily the adverse weather and damage caused by high flow on the river, eroding clay being used for the project.

– Placed a freeze on new bench acquisition, until Parks can compile a full inventory over the benches it already has. A number of benches were damaged or destroyed during the 2011 flood, and their restoration or replacement continues.

– Gave its approval for the site of a proposed compost-collection area, at the northwestern side of Polaris Park.

– Approved bills totalling $1,049,558.88, salaries totalling $94,064.32, and $10,000 to go to the Minot Area Council of the Arts. The Forestry Department’s old Ford Taurus was declared surplus and will be auctioned off.

– Redirected line-item funding for an ineffective heat exchanger at Maysa Arena was for new seating in the concession area and the addition of sixteen security cameras, which are hoped will help curb a dramatic increase in vandalism to Maysa facilities over the past year. The district will also begin posting updated costs of vandalism at its parks with the intention of raising public awareness on the matter.