News Column

South St. Paul voters to decide on $10.1 million bond question to fund parks

February 7, 2014

By Nick Ferraro, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.



Feb. 07--South St. Paul voters will head back to the ballot booth Tuesday, this time for a proposed $10.1 million bond referendum for park improvements and upgrades to the city's ice arena.

A voter-approved referendum would allow the city to carry out its long-term plan to further transform the former Port Crosby industrial landfill into a large recreational area called Kaposia Landing.

City officials say the time is right for a parks referendum -- the first since 2001. A city survey last year showed support from residents to move ahead with one, and an approval would allow the city to take advantage of low interest rates, said Chris Esser, director of parks and recreation.

If approved, the owner of a median-value home -- $150,000 -- in South St. Paul would pay an additional $98.23 annually, or $8.18 a month, in property taxes over the 20-year bond period.

About $5.4 million from the referendum would go toward finishing the plan for Kaposia Landing, located near the Mississippi River. The area, which was first identified for park development back in 2005, currently has biking and walking trails and a 6-acre dog park.

The plan calls for four softball/youth baseball fields with lights, a full-size lighted baseball field, an outdoor performing arts area, bocce ball and horseshoe courts, picnic areas, playgrounds and river overlooks.

Building the additional ball fields would allow the city to convert McMorrow Field's four ball fields into fields for soccer, lacrosse and football -- expenses that also would be funded through the bond measure.

The 20-acre park would also receive a playground, expanded trails and several site amenities, including bleachers, fencing, landscaping, redesigned parking areas, a picnic shelter and restroom enclosures. All told, about $2.3 million would go toward the park, which is located near the city's airport.

Wakota Arena, an ice rink that opened in 1962, would receive about $2.1 million in upgrades and improvements, including new or upgraded mechanical systems. Larger locker rooms and a second floor addition, with a meeting room, enclosed viewing area and dry-land training area, would be built in one of the arena's two rinks.

South St. Paul has held park referendums twice before.

In 1990, voters approved a $975,000 bond measure for playground equipment and to build Lorraine Park's "splash pool."

A 2001 referendum asking for $3.3 million to build a wave pool at Lorraine Park and an additional $1.1 million to renovate Northview Park's pool was rejected by voters, resulting in the closure of a pool at Lorraine Park.

Esser, who grew up South St. Paul and still lives there, said he has "nervous energy" over the city-wide vote.

"People have been optimistic and positive about it, for the most part," he said. "But we won't know until Tuesday night, I guess."

Nick Ferraro can be reached at 651-228-2173. Follow him at twitter.com/NFerraroPiPress.

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Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)


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