Planning panel talks about Kiesling House

NEW ULM — Monday night the Park and Recreation Commission made two recommendations affecting the Kiesling House.

The first recommendation was to purchase a small parcel of land adjacent to the south side of Kiesling Park. Half of Kiesling is actually owned by the Economic Development Authority (EDA). The city only owns the Kiesling House and the property directly in front of it, to the sidewalk on Minnesota Street. The section from the house leading to the Lamplighter belongs to the EDA. The parcel is 25 feet wide by 165 feet or 4,125 square feet. The parcel is owned by the EDA but has been maintained by the Park and Recreation Department at no cost to the EDA. This parcel could be used for historical demonstrations already conducted at the Kiesling House. The land is estimated to cost $25,300.

Later in the meeting, a recommendation was made for the city to begin paying heating costs for the Kiesling House during the winter. Currently Kathleen Backer has a lease agreement to pay the utilities for the building. Historic demonstrations are held at the house during the summer months, but during the winter months the building is not used. Backer has paid to heat the building during the winter to preserve the structure’s historical integrity.

A similar arrangement was made with the Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River (CCMR) for the lease of the Riverside Park building. However the lease does not require CCMR to heat the Riverside building during the winter. CCMR executive Director Scott Sparlin informed the Park Department the CCMR cannot afford to heat the building during the winter. If forced to heat the building, they would terminate their lease and vacate.

Park Department Director Tom Schmitz said the city could amend the lease and agree to pay to heat the Riverside building during the winter months.

Backer has stated she would request the same arrangement for the Kiesling House if approved for the Riverside building.

Council member David Christian made the request to put this item on the agenda. Christian is New Ulm’s former building inspector and he confirmed an uncontrolled environment in a historic building is one of the worst things that can be done. He believes it would cost the city more in the long term to repair the Riverside building if it became damaged due to neglect.

The commission unanimously agreed to recommend the city pay winter heating for Riverside and Kiesling.

The Nehls Park fitness trail was recently upgraded and paved by the Public Works Department, making the trail more accessible. A request was made to have snow removed from the trail during winter. The trail is 0.43 miles in length and is a heavily used part of the neighborhood park.

Schmitz said the cost of removing the snow is not expected to be significant.

The sand-based pedestrian trail in Adams Park was recommended for re-designation as a multi-use trail for pedestrians and fat bikes.

Schmitz explained the sand-based trail was well suited for the new style of mountain bikes. The fat bikes have wide tires which allow them to travel through sand and snow.

In other news, Chair Toby Freier gave an update on Reinvest in New Ulm (RENU). A special work session was held by the City Council to discuss RENU. Freier said RENU is headed in the right direction.

The city’s bond council gave the go ahead for the projects to begin now. New Ulm could begin these projects without depleting its over $4 million reserve funds. This gave the City Council the confidence to move forward with developing requests for proposals for the projects.

The RENU projects covered by the half-percent 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.

Freier said the RENU projects still have a long journey to go before completion, but it’s exciting to be on the next phase.

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