Soccer concerns draw yellow card from Park Board

Lawns were the prevailing topic discussed at the Minot Park Board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday evening. Talk was kicked off by the meeting’s only personal appearance, with representatives from the Minot Soccer Association coming forward with a list of concerns.

“We’re growing by leaps and bounds, which is fabulous,” began Michelle Weishaar, the user group’s president. With around 650 children participating this spring and 156 this summer, the program has had to expand with six more youth teams. In her view, what was less than fabulous is the state of parking for the complex, which is admittedly a problem for many area facilities in light of Minot’s continuing growth.

Weishaar shared a number of complaints, among which were a garage door opener the association had purchased but not installed in order to access the Altringer building in the event of a lightning storm, as well as a drainage problem inundating the northwestern corner of the Optimist Soccer Complex. But the chief concern dealt with the state of the fields themselves, and particularly that the city’s mowing crews were not giving the facility due priority in their scheduling.

“You are the number one property on our list,” city horticulturist Steve Wharton was quick to point out, adding that the maintenance of the soccer fields have “taken over 50 percent of the crews’ time.” With a relatively new staff recently without its seasoned head groundskeeper, a number of equipment problems and the generally soggy weather, the maintenance and horticultural departments are said to be scrambling but not failing to keep up with their duties around the community’s facilities. As such, maintenance head Brian Mathson agreed that these had been unfairly leveled complaints, which Wharton had described as being “broadsided” with unexpectedly at the meeting.

The park commissioners discussed this throughout the evening, agreeing that this was indicative of a broader problem within the park system, specifically that user groups and residents are directly calling department heads with their concerns, late schedulings and assorted inquiries, as well as in this instance bringing such concerns to the full board without going through an appropriate committee to investigate the matter first.

Essentially, Minot’s public services have gotten too large and complex to simply ring up a department head’s home phone. “We’ve gotten too big for that,” said commissioner Connie Feist, who felt that it would be prudent to look into improving the way the park district manages its information.

Commissioner Cliff Hovda also wondered whether a reassessment of users’ fees might be in order, considering the steady expansion going on that is putting a strain on public facilities. In the instance of the soccer group, its $3-per-child fees have brought in $2,415 for the 2013 spring and summer, which was noted hardly pays for one seasonal mower’s wages, much less the care-intensive facilities themselves.

Other business included:

– Authorization for the acquisition of 3,500 square feet of Flexmat retainment meshing for the Souris Valley Golf Course, which should help prevent future erosion; the cost of the material and labor is $17,875. It was also decided the course will open with a full 18 holes on Saturday, with final reseeding work around the grounds to continue when the weather permits during weekday hours.

– Consideration of converting part or all of Jefferson Park into a “bark park” similar to that near Centennial Park. Options will be explored in the near future.

– The acceptance of meeting minutes, 13 liquor licenses, bills totalling about $653,251 and salaries of $169,795.

– Declaring an emergency the bottoming out of the Maysa Arena dehumidifier unit, which cannot be repaired and needs replacement. Delay in its replacement will allow considerable condensation to build up in the facility, undermining structural integrity. Waiving the bid process, authorization was given for up to $80,000 for the acquisition and installation of two new units from Cimco. The estimate is around $73,000 and the work is expected to be complete by the middle of next week.

– Acceptance of one of five bids for the repair of the Roosevelt Park maintenance and Eastwood Park bridges, of $98,982 to Wesslen Construction of Spokane, Wash.