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Veterans center presses forward

Assistant Quartermaster Ken House presented VFW Post 10818’s proposal which included a pledge to provide $200,000 in funding, a resume of the Post’s civic contributions and commitments from several community partners to help with grant writing and financial management for the project. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

An audience of VFW Post 10818 veterans were party to a spirited discussion by New Richmond City Council members Monday, Jan. 8 in response to a request to transfer 5 acres of Freedom Park property into the Post's possession.

The transfer is required as part of a plan to build a 16,000 square-foot Veterans Center which would also house a senior and community center.

Nearly two years in the planning since the Post had to abandon their headquarters at the Community Commons, the project estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $750,000 relies on in-kind donations of labor and engineering from the military which are dependent on the Post acquiring title to the property.

Assistant Quartermaster Ken House presented the Post's proposal which included a pledge to provide $200,000 in funding, a resume of the Post's civic contributions and commitments from several community partners to help with grant writing and financial management for the project.

"What that means is, this post is all in, every penny we have is going to support this project. Tonight we are requesting that you formally approve the land transfer to the VFW subject to the final approval of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of New Richmond, approved by the City Council, the City attorney and state, and the VFW Post and the attorney representing the VFW Post, to be completed sometime in March or April of 2018," said House.

A number of council members had questions regarding the actual process necessary to accomplish such a transfer, about the specifics of the MOU and about the timing of the military's in-kind contributions.

Alderman Scottie Ard formulated a motion for the sake of transparency seeking a consensus for or against the project directly from voters via a referendum to be placed on the April ballot.

Ard's motion was defeated 4-2.

"The public is ultimately going to decide whether this project flies or not, because if they don't support it financially, it's not going to happen," cautioned Mayor Fred Horne.

Typically a land survey would go through the planning and zoning commission where it would be reviewed by staff for things like land use, comprehensive plan compliance, easement issues, and any topographic questions.

City Administrator Mike Darrow clarified the process by which such a land grant would normally be accomplished.

"Approving the motion as proposed tonight to transfer up to 5.11 acres within Freedom Park, as outlined in the Park Board recommendation, would allow us to take the survey through our typical process which is the development review committee, planning and zoning and then bring it back before the council. The City Council would consider the possible allocation of funds for the project after public comment as well as review of the project within the context of the Capitol Improvement Plan. If you approve tonight's motion, you're basically saying to staff and the City Attorney, 'Now get us the details on the land and the survey, work with the VFW on the MOU and anticipate coming back to the Council with that information in the next two months,'" explained Darrow.

The Council voted 4-3 with Mayor Horne casting the deciding vote to "approve up to a 5-acre site as outlined by the Park Board within Freedom Park for the purposes of a VFW facility, subject to a signed MOU. The City Council shall consider the possible allocation of funds for this project after public comment as well as a review of all Capital Improvement Projects in the spring of 2018."

New website

Operations Manager and newly appointed City Forester Mike Mroz demonstrated a new website developed as a result of a collaborative effort between the City, the New Richmond Area Community Foundation, The Centre and the New Richmond School District to create a centralized, "one-click" solution to broker all of the City's recreational resources in one place. The ambitious goal of the Recreation Partnership is to concisely present all of the City's recreational resources from ball fields and trails to park pavilions and pools and enable people to efficiently locate those resources, check scheduled activities and events and reserve those resources. The site, which also has a mobile application, is expected to go live by the end of January.

Other business

• The 2017 Budget Book will be available Friday, Jan. 12 on the City website.

• Polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. — 8 p.m. for the Jan. 16 special election. Absentee ballots will be available at the Clerk's office until 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12.

• Applications for the Library Director's position will be accepted until Jan. 31, 2018.

• The Airport is still looking for volunteers to help with various activities during the week of the Super Bowl. The next training session will be Thursday, Jan. 25. Contact Mike Demulling at 715-246-7735 or mike@nrairport.com.

• The City Council approved a resolution designating Michael Mroz as the new City Forester.

• The City Council approved a resolution keeping the schedule of impact fees the same for 2018 as they were for 2017.

• Council members approved a new Tree Ordinance including a requirement to obtain an administrative permit from the City Forester before planting any trees in a right-of-way.

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