Bid OKed, work to begin on amphitheater

NEW ULM — A full crowd in City Council Chambers applauded the approval of a bid for the German Park Amphitheater project, Tuesday.

Members of several organizations connected to German Park attended the meeting including Friends of German Park, the Narren and members of the New Ulm Municipal Band.

The German Park Amphitheater improvements have been in discussion for a decade. Fundraising efforts to cover the costs began in 2014 and will continue as the project moves forward.

In July, the council approved began the bidding process to determine the cost of the project. August 26, the city received three competitive bids for the project and included alternative bids. WEB Construction Inc. submitted the lowest base-bid of $767,791.10. This bid was near the city’s original estimate.

Web Construction included alternative bids for a shade structure and south staircase. The shade structure was bid at $202,478.24. The south staircase was bid at $66,495. Combined with the alternates the cost is over $1 million.

City Manager Chris Dalton recommended the city move forward with the project by approving the base-bid, the second alternative for a south staircase and a five percent contingency for $876,000. Dalton suggested forgoing the shade structure for now.

Council President Charlie Schmitz agreed with the recommendation. He said “I think we need to keep moving forward. We’ve wasted enough time on it. I don’t do it now, we’re never going to do it.”

Schmitz acknowledged finding money is always a problem, but many people have already donated considerable amounts to this project and the city does not want to lose these donations.

Dr. Ann Vogel spoke in support of the project. She said the amphitheater was a legacy project that will be a part of the New Ulm long after everyone is gone. Also, the new design is useable for anyone with a mobility challenge, whether its wheelchair or stroller.

Currently, there is $288,425 of donations in the city account for this project. An additional $170,000 in pledges are available. Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz the pledges are contingent on the project’s authorization.

Councilor Les Schultz made the motion to approve the bid. He said the community was lucky to have a community willing to donate half the cost of the project.

Councilor Larry Mack seconded the motion. The motion passed with all present councilors supporting the motion.

Councilor Lisa Fischer said it was difficult to continue placing money into Park and Recreation project, while other areas of the community were in need as well. Fischer specifically cited daycare shortage as driving economic problem.

Schultz said the council could push the EDA step-up projects in other areas.

With the approval of amphitheater bids, preliminary construction can begin. Estimated completion of the amphitheater upgrades is late August 2020.

K9 Unit

The city was asked to retired the Police Department canine Booker. Booker was diagnosed with a degenerative spine condition forcing the retirement. The council approved retirement. Booker will be transitioned from service dog to handler Officer Erik Byro.

Police Chief David Borchert said his department feel bad Booker needs to retire after only two years. Typically, a canine serves with the department for eight years.

He said they would be evaluating the future of the K9 unit. Borchert said there were two options for replacing Booker; either buy a trained dog or buy and untrained dog and pay to train him. Both options were $20,000.

Another issue was the exact need for a K9 unit. Borchert was unsure if Minnesota would legalize marijuana. If it were legalized, it would compromise how the animal was used. All K9 dogs would need to be trained differently.

Borchert said Brown County was considering purchasing a K9 unit and thought the city could work with them.

He believed the K9 unit was valuable to the city and he supported it but said the department was not ready now for next year’s budget.

Councilor Les Schultz said the dog program pays for itself if the animal ever needs to head into a dangerous space in pursuit of a suspect.

“I’ll always continue supporting a canine for our law enforcement,” he said. Schultz agreed, the marijuana legalization could go either way, but training for the other issues is important as it could keep our officers safe.

The council also approved a grant application to the Department of Justice for a third Criminal Investigator. This proposed third investigator would focus on sex trafficking within New Ulm, Brown County, and nearby counties.


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