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City Council: Explore parks referendum options ’
City Council: Explore parks referendum options
By Lyn Jerde,
Eden Prairie Sun Current, April 23, 2005

Without deciding for sure whether voters will be presented with a parks referendum this fall, the Eden Prairie City Council April 12 directed city staff to explore, in more depth, the costs and feasibility of various proposed projects.

The council’s unanimous vote followed City Manager Scott Neal’s assurance that authorizing exploration of the questions now does not commit the council to any of the projects that Parks and Recreation Director Bob Lambert mapped out in a lengthy presentation.

Nor does the council’s vote rule out, for now, including any of those projects on a possible Nov. 8 ballot.

“We still have a number of questions – neighborhood issues, school issues, trail issues,” Neal said.

Lambert said staff will need to determine more precise cost estimates for each proposal. Also, he said, Eden Prairie School District officials need to be invited to weigh in on the proposed park work, particularly at the city parks that abut Forest Hills and Prairie View elementary schools.

City staff also needs to meet with senior citizens and other residents to solicit their input. Also, architects and bonding attorneys would need to provide a clearer picture of the projects’ costs and feasibility.

For projects such as an indoor play area, which was part of the $22.5 million parks referendum that failed almost a year ago, Lambert said he needs to talk to operators of similar facilities, to determine what factors make them successful, and their cost-effectiveness.

Unlike the most recent referendum, this one would likely be broken into separate questions, each of which voters could accept or reject. One exception would be that Community Center pool expansions could not happen if the Community Center renovations don’t gain approval.

To get the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot, the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission would need to have a final recommendation for what the referendum would include, and how much it would seek, by the end of June. The City Council would have to make a decision in July.

Councilmember Phil Young said April 12 that he was not ready to approve or rule out any of the proposals, based solely on Lambert’s presentation that evening.

The trail improvements and park improvements sounded fine, Young said, but he has questions about the proposals related to the Eden Prairie Community Center – including two options for indoor pools.

“I still remain concerned about how those proposals will be seen, even if we split these items up in a referendum,” he said.

The council’s vote authorized the city to explore both pool proposals – a $3.9 million indoor, zero-depth warm water pool with two slides, or a $5.1 million project that would include the same, plus lengthening six existing lap lanes from 25 to 50 meters.

Lambert acknowledged there are mixed feelings in the community as to whether the Community Center’s existing indoor pool should be mainly for competition or recreation.

Although competitive swimmers (including the Eden Prairie High School team and the FoxJets amateur team) use the pool for practice, it can’t be used for competition because it’s not deep enough for racers to dive in.

But deepening the pool, Lambert said, would take away shallow water now utilized for children’s swimming lessons and adults’ water exercises.

The addition of an indoor, warm-water “fun pool” might provide space for such activities and still allow for the deepening.

Councilmember Ron Case urged the staff to get information on all its proposals – knowing that not all of them might be included in the referendum.

“We have a lot to do in this community, and the community wants a lot,” he said. “We can’t do it all. But we live in a community that wants us to do a lot.”

Parks proposals – what might be on a Nov. 8 ballot

Possibly on the ballot:

• Improvements to the 23-year-old Eden Prairie Community Center, 16700 Valley View Road. These would include a larger fitness center, expanded locker rooms, a reconfigured lobby, a walking track and a multi-use gymnasium. Estimated cost: $6.6 million

• Site expansion of the Community Center. Estimated cost: $1.37 million. (This cost also could be paid with general fund money or park dedication fees.)

• An indoor, zero-depth warm-water pool with two water slides. Estimated cost: $3.9 million. (Of this, about $300,000 would be utilized to deepen the lap lanes of the existing indoor pool at the Community Center.) Or, the same project, plus expanding six 25-meter lanes of the existing pool to 50 meters. Estimated cost $5.1 million.

• A menu of park acquisitions and expansions, including work on Prairie View and Forest Hills parks, the purchase of four additional acres for Birch Island Woods, expansion of Flying Cloud Fields and improvements at Edenvale Park. Estimated cost: $5.2 million.

• Money to expedite the approximately $3 million worth of work needed on Eden Prairie’s trails. Estimated cost: $2 million.

Potential referendum total: $20.27 million. If the less expensive pool option is included, and if the community center site work is paid for in some other way: $17.7 million.
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Not proposed for the referendum ballot

The following parks projects are proposed for Eden Prairie, but would not be paid for with proceeds from a referendum. Instead, they would be funded through revenue bonds – which would be paid back not with tax money, but from the proceeds of admission/usage fees.

• A zero-depth outdoor “fun pool” with water toys, for non-swimmers up to age 7. Estimated cost: $900,000.

• An indoor play area at the Community Center. Estimated cost: $540,000.

• A third sheet of ice on the Community Center’s northern edge – a covered outdoor refrigerated rink, operated from October through March. Estimated cost: $2 million. The Eden Prairie Hockey Association would also contribute donations to this project.

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