The regular Blue Earth City Council meeting drew an unusually large audience on Monday, June 7. Several community members attended to voice their concerns about recreational opportunities in the city.
Community members were primarily concerned with plans to remove tennis courts from Putnam Park. The council said they hope to improve the town’s tennis facilities by building new courts on school property.
Allan Hansen, Blue Earth resident and youth tennis coach, opened the discussion by drawing attention to the success of the Blue Earth Area School tennis program. Hansen explained that “Women’s tennis has good players, but they need tennis courts to keep the program going.”
Tina Prescher, another resident of Blue Earth, added that the tennis courts are also invaluable to the rest of the community.
“Children go to the tennis courts to play and avoid trouble” she explained. She added that tennis courts provide healthy entertainment and “Losing them would be devastating for families”.
Mayor Rick Scholtes responded to concerns from community members, saying he has no plans to eliminate tennis courts altogether. They plan to build an upgraded tennis facility at Blue Earth Area High School.
Council member Dan Warner provided support, agreeing with community members that “Not to have the [tennis] program would be extremely damaging to our community.
The council hopes to build a facility with eight courts that would allow the district to accommodate tennis sections.
The board currently has a subcommittee responsible for determining a proposed budget for the new tennis courts.
Council member Glenn Gaylord has expressed concerns about having sufficient funds for the project, especially if the city partners with school districts to build the tennis courts, but Warner assured the council he felt “Financially, we can make it work. “
While refurbishing existing tennis courts can cost up to $ 346,000, building new courts can cost around $ 800,000 or more.
Community members seemed somewhat appeased by the board’s clarification, but requested that the board keep them informed of updates. They also discussed organizing a fundraiser for the new courts.
The discussion then shifted from tennis to cycling. David Kittleson presented the results of a local cycling and walking survey. In general, the results indicated that residents of Blue Earth enjoy biking and walking, but are looking for improvements to existing trails.
The purpose of the survey, Kittleson explained, was to determine when and where residents enjoy biking and walking, what their concerns are about biking and walking opportunities in Blue Earth, and what improvements they would love to see bring to local trails.
According to Kittleson, residents have expressed concerns about the ease of access to Steinberg Nature Park. Residents generally visit the park to use the trails, and they prefer to walk or cycle to the park rather than driving. However, current road conditions make this operation difficult.
Residents have also expressed concerns about the condition of the road leading to Steinberg Park. Some parts of the shoulder are dangerous and road traffic puts cyclists and pedestrians in danger.
Finally, Kittleson questioned whether separate trails could be connected more seamlessly to make it easier to travel between different parts of the city.
The board made no decision on the results of the investigation, but wanted to hear updates from Kittleson in the future.
The discussion on cycling at Blue Earth continued when the construction of a new cycle path was brought to the attention of council.
The trail will follow the Blue Earth River on the north side of Leland Parkway and will be approximately 1.8 miles long. It will be a single track bike course including “characteristics,”or obstacles, which will appeal to the most adventurous bikers in the region.
As the trail is partially built on municipal property, council asked the organizing committee to submit a drawn map of the trail. Additionally, they expressed concerns about insurance liability if the obstacles on the trail are too dangerous.
No decision was made to address potential liability issues on Monday evening, but city staff agreed to look into the matter further in the future.
The other matters discussed at the board meeting are summarized below.
• In a working session that took place prior to the meeting, Carlson SV shared the presentation of the 2020 audit regarding city funds. Overall, the city’s financial situation is stable. The city has a good amount of money, a healthy unallocated fund balance, and an excess of income over expenses. Alcohol sales in particular have been a major source of income over the past year.
• City engineer Wes Brown of Bolton and Menk shared the progress of various construction projects in the city. He pointed out a few issues, including a change order needed for the Sailor Street 2020 project closure work. He informed the board that the Safe Routes to Schools project will begin once the team receives approval from the. State. Additionally, he reported that grant applications for possible street works on Grant Drive and Rice Street have yet to be approved for state funding.
• The board discussed the purchase of the Greenfield Environmental Multistate Trust property, where it hopes a veterans memorial can be built. Ownership of the property by a multi-state trust creates complications when requesting an estimate. The Board will continue to consider the matter at its next meeting.
• Council reviewed its discussion of the City Dog Ordinance. They voted to increase the number of dogs households are allowed to register from two to three to further encourage citizens to register their pets. They also discussed imposing a fine of $ 50 per day on residents who house unregistered dogs.