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Parks panel hears more RENU updates

NEW ULM — Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz gave an update on Reinvest in New Ulm projects to the Park and Recreation Commission, Monday.

The Recreation Center project is currently estimated at $11. 5 million, which is $2 million over the 2016 estimate due to increases in construction costs. The City Council was presented with two improvement options. The first was to continue construction with an aquatic center, gymnastics center, indoor playground and fitness/wellness center. The second option was to dramatically decrease the scope of the project to keep costs at $9.5 million.

The council chose to continue with the $11.5 million option. The plan is also to continue with a single-phase construction to save on costs. This will close the pool and locker room facilities in the Recreation Center for 9-12 months. The track and racquetball courts would remain open during this time.

Schmitz said there are over $0.5 million in interest earnings and premiums from bonds sold a few years earlier to help cover the extra cost of the projects. The general fund has enough money to cover the increase without hurting the city bond rating. The Economic Development Authority (EDA) has already supported up to $250,000 to finish the project.

Johnson Park is 85% completed and is expected to be done in a few months. The final cost is estimated at $1.35 million. Schmitz said this was near the initial estimate.

Hermann Heights Park is out to bid to contractors. This bid package includes parking lot improvements, relocation of Monument Street and the new retaining wall. The estimate is $1.24 million. Schmitz said if bids come in at a reasonable price, the project could begin in July. The park would likely be closed during the construction.

New Ulm Community Garden President Christina Baganz gave a presentation on the Community Gardens.

The Community Gardens was formed out of Putting Greens mini-golf course. In 2013, Putting Green made land available to the public for gardening. In 2017, Putting Greens disbanded but the garden continued.

Last year the garden offered 70 community plots, which were all filled by 45 different gardens. Six of those plots were used to grow items to be donated to the food shelf. Special programing was offered at the garden through a grant. The Community Gardens will likely apply for more grants in 2020.

In the next year, a goal is to expand the number of plots to 80 and fill them. Programming for gardens is expected to continue as well as food shelf donations and volunteers.

The commission recommended a New Ulm Area Foundation grant application of up to $5,000 for historic and environmental interpretive signage in Riverside Park.

A plan is underway to create a deck plaza outside of this building. This grant would allow for interpretive signage on the deck.

Schmitz said no matching funds have been committed at this time. Matching funds may come from private organizations.

The donation of a sculpted solid bronze portrait of Hermann was recommended for approval. The donation came from Ross Pollard who requested to donate this bronze portrait. The plaque is 9-inches by 12-inches and would be placed in Hermann Park, with location to be determined later.

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