Archived Story

This time, council OKs arena expenses

Published 10:47am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The city council’s special Monday night meeting went off without a hitch, as the full council unanimously approved some further expenditures on the community ice arena building project.

The vote came a week after the council’s regular June 20 meeting, in which a change order of about $48,000 failed to get approved because two aldermen were absent. The resulting 4-2 vote was not enough to allow the city to back the funds while the arena fundraising group worked to bring in more pledge money.

However, previously absent members Jim Fish and Jay Cichosz were both at Monday’s meeting, and the vote was made unanimous after City Engineer Dan Edwards announced that the fundraisers gave him a letter on Friday reporting that pledges had been raised not only for the change orders, but for the full $189,000 matching grant for the arena given by the Otto Bremer Foundation. The new pledge money brings the total project budget to just over $7.4 million, which Edwards said should cover all foreseen expenses, including several more change orders the fundraising group hopes to make, including the completion of the second floor bathrooms and completed lobby and commons spaces.

Aldermen Scott Rachels and Randy Synstelien reversed their June 20 votes on the grounds that the city would no longer be the sole backer of the change order funds. However, Synstelien stated that taxpayers are still being used as a “backstop” if some pledges fall through.

Local resident John Strauch also spoke at the meeting, requesting that the city only allow change orders if the fundraisers can present cash in hand. That way, he said, taxpayers are guaranteed not to foot the bill for any extras.

“I’ve been in the construction business for a number of years,” he said. “Most projects exceed the budget. They go over what we believe they’re going to cost.”

The city also voted to allow Edwards to sign off on any further change orders independently, so long as they fall within the city’s arena budget.

Finally, Mayor Hal Leland reported that he and City Administrator Mark Sievert spoke last week with the Minnesota Commissioner of Revenue Myron Frans about keeping city sales taxes in any passed tax omnibus bill. They, along with other cities, also requested that the taxes not be counted against a city’s allotment of local government aid. Sievert said Frans seemed receptive to their pleas.

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  • kathleenmae

    The taxpayers have a right to know the names and amounts pledged, and it is the responsbility of the City of Fergus Falls to provide this information to the “Fergus Falls Journal” for publication. The arena project has been shrouded in secrecy since inception, and this must be changed.

    • holly
      • John Anderson

        Does that list have names and amounts of pledges made since December of 2010? Nope. More pledges have been made since then to match the Bremer money, and construction decisions are being made based on those new pledges. Kathleen is correct in stating that those names and pledge amounts need to be made public.

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