Aldermen block extra arena funding [UPDATED]Published 11:04am Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Updated 11:16am Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Scott Rachels and Randy Synstelien blocked the city council from committing more money to additions to the new ice arena – at least for one week.
The absence of Jim Fish and Jay Cichosz at Monday night’s city council meeting allowed the two aldermen who have been most outspoken about the council’s handling of the arena to essentially vote down a spending increase until the entire council can meet.
City Engineer Dan Edwards went before the council to talk about additional improvements to the arena that have been made possible by the $189,000 arena matching grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation. Though the original plan was to only approve improvements once the fundraising committee had raised the corresponding funds, the council voted to approve the first two improvements (a concrete floor in the practice rink and the expansion of a heated observation deck) June 6, without the pledges and over objections from Rachels and Synstelien.
On Monday, however, Edwards presented the council with a letter from the fundraising committee announcing that it had raised the pledges for the first improvements. But, he added, electrical changes, department of health requirements and other concerns have spawned about $48,000 more in costs – most of which he believes the fundraisers and the grant will cover if given more time (he received the additional cost estimate on Monday afternoon).
“These are items that should be eligible under the grant, and we should be able to get matching funds from the fundraising group,” said Edwards, adding that he wouldn’t normally ask the council to cover for the fundraisers, except that the schedule for the arena is so tight. “I’ll come back to the next meeting with the appropriate (pledge) letter from the fundraising group.”
As they did on June 6, Rachels and Synstelien stated that they did not want to commit further taxpayer money to the project, even if it was likely that the new money would come in.
“I don’t want city taxpayers to be the first ones out of the gate for the backstop,” said Synstelien. Rachels agreed.
When the expenditure was put to a vote, the other four aldermen in attendance – JoEllen Thacker, Pat Connelly, Eric Shelstad and Stan Synstelien – all voted in favor, but the resolution required a council majority of five votes to pass. Edwards said any stall could set back the already-delayed construction schedule by one to two weeks, as contractors dance around the area where the work would need to be done.
The council voted to convene a special meeting on Monday, June 27, at 5:30 p.m. for another opportunity to vote on the expenditures.Tags: city council, ice arena