Planning recommendation may affect Kiesling House

NEW ULM — The Park and Recreation Commission made a recommendation Monday night that could affect the Kiesling House’s status on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Kiesling House is the only wood-framed house remaining in New Ulm built before the Dakota Conflict of 1862.

At this time the Parks Department has concerns about the building’s siding and windows, which need to be replaced. There are two options available. The first is to use wood materials which will cost $24,268, with and additional $61,661 over the next 50 years. Lower maintenance materials are available that would cost $18,728 upfront and only $11,666 over the next 50 years. This second option is cheaper by over $55,000 but if non-wooded materials are used, the building could lose its historic status.

“That National Register status is certainly helpful when you are applying to state and federal grants,” Parks Director Tom Schmitz said. But it could limit local control of the property.

Facility Maintenance Supervisor Ryan Wire said the options available are customizable. The low maintenance options would match the wood component. Wire said the exterior of the Kiesling House, including siding and windows, are not original. The current windows were added in the 1980s. Wire is uncertain how these changes will affect the historical status.

The commission was reluctant to make a decision on the issue, but commissioner Jean Prochniak ultimately made a motion to recommend the low maintenance materials. Prochniak believes the low maintenance option was best for the future. The commission unanimously approved the motion.

In addition, the commission recommended the city not apply for state or federal grants, to keep city control over the property.

The Kiesling House maintenance issue will next come before the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC) on Monday, Sept 18. The final decision will be made by the City Council.

In other news, the commission recommended the city re-authorize negotiations with Farmers Coop of Hanska and Klassen Plumbing & Heating for land acquisition or easement for the Minnesota River trail between Park Street and 3rd North Street.

Park and Rec has a conceptual master plan for the Minnesota River Parkway that would connect city parks through a trail following the Minnesota River. In 2008, the department was awarded a Legacy grant and was awarded $100,000 to design and construct this trail. The project stalled because the city did not own the land needed or have easements for construction. The grant money was returned to the DNR.

If the city accepts the recommendation and obtains the land through acquisition or easements, the city could reapply for a grant to complete this trail.

Commission Chair Toby Freier announced a work session for the City Council is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the District 88 boardroom on Tuesday, Sept. 19, to discuss Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU) planning options.

The RENU projects were approved by voters last November and formally approved by the state Legislature last spring. New projects to be funded with a local sales tax include an indoor water park, indoor playground, wellness center, gymnastic facilities, Johnson Park grandstand improvements, Hermann Heights road and parking improvements and a winter multi-purpose dome.

Now the city must determine when to begin the new projects. In theory, the city could choose to pay off original bonds and begin funding the new projects now, but not without trade-offs. By starting the RENU projects early, the city would miss the opportunity to put an additional $1.5 million in a reserves account between 2018 and 2020.

Funds generated by the sales tax extension can only be used to pay for new projects. Funds generated by the original sales tax can only be used for the original projects.

The original sales tax projects — Civic Center, Community Center and Recreation Center — will face significant maintenance costs, such as roof repairs, in the near future. By building up reserves, the city could cover these repairs without raising taxes.

The Park and Rec commission has already recommended the planning and implementation of the RENU projects begin in 2018.

Schmitz said the work session will also include discussion of phasing the plans.

“There are seven projects and we’re not going to do them all at once,” Schmitz said. “There will probably be two or three series of sales tax bonds sold.”

The Johnson Park improvements will likely be part of the first phase, to complete the upgrades in time for New Ulm to host the AA Amateur Baseball tournament in 2020.

The next Park and Recreation meeting is Oct. 9 at the District 88 boardroom while renovations and completed at City Hall.

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