Litchfield City Council got its first look at a design proposal for the Litchfield Area Leisure Center – and discussed how it could be funded and run – at its regular meeting on Monday.
A four-section country house with an elevated walking track, eight-lane indoor swimming pool, exercise rooms, locker rooms, bathrooms and locker rooms would be part of a multi-faceted fitness facility. The concept was developed by a joint committee comprised of members and administrators from the Litchfield School Board and City Council.
Although jointly developed, the Litchfield Recreation Center is actually two separate projects: one voted on by city residents and the other by school district residents. If the two pass around the same time, construction could begin jointly. If the question of the link of the city passes, but not that of the school, only the part of the city will be built – and vice versa.
“These are two stand-alone projects designed to be combined,” City Administrator Dave Cziok told council.
The facility would be built immediately south of Litchfield High School. Tennis courts and a wrestling hall currently on or near the site would be moved. The facility would be accessible to students through a doorway between the high school and the north wall of the new building. The public would enter the facility from a new parking lot and a door on the east wall. Key fob systems would be used for secure entry.
Most of the aquatic center would be funded by the school; most of the pavilion area, which would include space for tennis, pickleball, basketball, field hockey and other activities, by the city. The two entities would equally share the cost of offices, reception and community spaces.
If both projects are supported by voters, the city’s share would be about $13.7 million. A $5 million grant from the state of Minnesota would reduce the city’s obligation to $8,675,000, to be repaid over 20 years with an annual payment of $775,000. If a local sales tax question is approved by voters, that revenue would take $360,000 out of the annual payment, leaving $415,000 to be borne by property taxpayers. Operations and maintenance would be partially offset by memberships and fees, but would realistically leave an annual deficit of around $130,000 to $140,000 to be covered by local ratepayers. The city’s share would be $70,000.
Cziok estimated that the impact on a $150,000 home for the balance of the deposit and deficit payment was about $9.14/month, or $109.68/year.
The Joint Powers Committee is also seeking other partners, including Meeker County and Meeker Memorial Hospital, to expand aquatic opportunities to include, in addition to the eight-lane pool the school needs for its physical education, sports and community programs, an indoor swimming pool. If agreed, this would add approximately $1.8 million to total construction costs and $100,000 per year to the operations and maintenance deficit. There is room on site to add a warm water aquatic area to the west of the proposed structure.
It is also hoped the state of Minnesota could help with another stipend of up to $2 million. Representative Dean Urdahl attended the board meeting to acknowledge that such an additional contribution could be included when the next bail bill is passed, but nothing is guaranteed.
There is also a donation of approximately $560,000 from the Gordon Crider Estate for a community pool that could be operated.
“It’s probably the best deal you’ll get, and maybe the last chance to do it,” Cziok told the board and school officials who were in attendance. “Without the support of the school board and the state of Minnesota, we wouldn’t have his conversation.”
He reminded the council that if the option of the half-cent local sales tax likely to be put to a public vote this fall fails, it would not be possible for the city to fund its part of the project. . Moreover, if unsuccessful, the council cannot legally ask the public again for an increase until 2024, he said, by which time construction costs will no doubt have increased due to the inflation.
After taking a few weeks to review the numbers worked out by the committee and its respective CFOs and bond advisers, the board is set to vote July 18 on whether to have the half-cent sales tax on the ballot. to vote in November.
Councilor Darlene Kotelnicki inquired about the public impact of this and a planned sewage treatment plant upgrade that will be required within a few years. Cziok and Urdahl told him that these were separate projects, not in competition with each other. The First District Association is expected to play a significant role in future wastewater needs, as does the state. The numbers have not been finalized, but an update is expected later this summer, Cziok said.
Other advisers asked who would manage the day-to-day operations of the facility. Cziok replied that the details are still being discussed by the committee, but it would likely be the community education office, as he has experience in recreational joint ventures. Cziok and Mayor Keith Johnson said staffing for management has been factored into the preliminary operations and maintenance budget. Engineering and design costs have also been factored into the total obligation.
“I like what I see,” Councilor Eric Mathwig said. “I want everything or nothing at all. »
Cziok, Urdahl and Johnson emphasized the importance of the community supporting a project like this and supporting it, otherwise it wouldn’t happen.
“You have to come together as a council and as a community to get things done,” Urdahl said.