Panel recommends amphitheater updates

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt The Park and Recreation Commission is recommending the city start the design phase for updating the German Park amphitheater (pictured).

NEW ULM — The Park and Recreation Commission is recommending the city start the design phase for the German Park amphitheater update.

During the Nov. 6 City Council meeting, Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz informed the city that private donors are threatening to withdraw donations and pledges for the German Park amphitheater if the amphitheater is not constructed in 2019.

This includes a donation of $25,000 cash from 2015 and a $100,000 pledge from 2016.

Schmitz was requesting the council authorize soliciting proposals for the creation of construction documents and cost estimates for the amphitheater replacement.

This project has been discussed for a decade. The earthen and grass seating terraces have slumped and degraded, making them unusable for lawn chairs. In addition, the terraces are inaccessible to the mobility-impaired. The amphitheater hosts numerous concerts annually.

The council was hesitant to move forward because the project was looking at a significant budget shortfall. In addition, the council wanted updated estimates on the cost of the project.

Schmitz presented an update estimate to the commission. The 2019 estimate for the first phase of the project is $467,337.50. With the pledges and donations available there is approximately $136,300 still needed to complete the first phase.

Schmitz said fundraising for this project will continue, but to deliver this project to the community in 2019 design needs to start now.

“I think it’s a moment where the city needs to make a decision,” Commissioner Toby Freier said. It was possible additional donations could come forward if designs were approved.

Schmitz said two of the pledgers are considering raising their pledge if the project starts moving forward.

Michael Shaneman addressed the commission. He favored the city getting behind the amphitheater project. He suggested changing the design of the theater by elevating the stage into the hill. He believes the hillside of the theater would not be used by as many people because of accessibility issues.

Schmitz said he was recommending the design phase at this time. This would allow the public to review the process and determine what is best for the site.

Splashpad to be donated

A splashpad donation has been offered to the Park and Recreation Department. Barbra Haroldson has offered to donate a splashpad valued at $115,000 to the city of New Ulm on condition the city fund site preparation and utilities estimated at $21,000. Haroldson previously donated a splashpad to Red Wing.

A splashpad is an aquatic play feature with no standing water or water depth; meaning no lifeguards are needed to monitor for safety. Splashpads can be used by all age groups and for people with any range of abilities.

Schmitz said there are two categories of splashpads. His staff was recommending a non-recirculating splashpad. No filtration and sanitation system are needed for this type of splashpad, lowering the costs and maintenance.

Parks staff reviewed the parks in New Ulm and narrowed down possible locations for the splashpad to Nehls Park, Riverside Park and Harman Park. Of these three, Harman Park is the only one with bathroom facilities.

The commissioners believe Harman Park is the best location for the splashpad since it would be a challenge for families to use the splashpad if a restroom facility was not nearby.

Freier said he was very excited for the splashpad. On a survey prior to the RENU projects, there were several request for outdoor aquatic amenities. The splashpad has been on the parks department wishlist for sometime. Since the facility does not require staffing it was viewed as a relatively simple addition to the system.

Commissioner Melanie Griebel said it was a great opportunity for the city and was something different.

The commissioners unanimously recommended accepting the splashpad donation.

In addition to the splashpad, Park and Rec received several cash donations. The Hermann 5K Race received $600 worth of donations. The Trap and Skeet Range received $21,000 in donations, and $3,000 was donated for new park benches. In total the department received $24,600 in cash donation.

Senior Dining 2019 Lease Agreement

The commissioners reviewed the Senior Dining Lease Agreement with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and recommended increased the rent to $53 a day.

LSS has leased the Community Center’s kitchen and cafetorium to make, serve and deliver meals to senior citizens.

The rental fee charged to LSS has been $51 for two years. In 2015, the city reduced the fee from $86.50 to $50 and then increased it to $51 in 2016.

At this time between 37 percent and 53 percent of LSS meals prepared in the Community Center go to seniors residing outside New Ulm. Currently there is a 75 percent limit on meals delivered off site. The commission also agreed to change the contract language to cap the percentage of meals delivered outside of New Ulm to 50 percent.

Sarah Anderson and Andrea Lingel with LSS spoke at the commission meeting and asked to maintain the rent at $51. Lingel said their revenue flow has been low recently due to construction and few donations.

Freier asked if the 50 percent cap on off-site delivery could be changed if neighboring communities were willing to provide funding for the program. Schmitz believes this would be a reasonable change.

The changes to the lease will be sent to the city council for final recommendation.

RENU Update

Freier said the Hermann Heights project was awarded to Bolton and Menk, Inc., and requests for proposals were submitted for the Recreation Center improvements.

The Johnson Park project is moving forward. The subcommittee for this project has blueprints. Schmitz said the design will be completed over winter with construction taking place in summer 2019. Johnson Park project is scheduled for completion by December 2019.