Coon Rapids park bond issue brochure being prepared

An informational brochure with details of the Nov. 5 park bond referendum will be mailed to Coon Rapids residents the first week of August.

The brochure will include the list of projects that are proposed under the bond issue following Coon Rapids City Council action in early June that placed the referendum on the 2013 election ballot.

The bond referendum will seek voter approval for $17.37 million.

But the brochure will deal with concepts for each of the parks and trails where improvements are planned, but not the details.

The details will only come if the bond issue is approved by voters and will be presented at neighborhood meetings in areas of the parks affected so that residents can provide comments prior to the park improvements being implemented, according to City Manager Steve Gatlin.

The brochure will, however, provide a cost breakdown as well as the property tax impact on both homes and commercial and industrial properties in the city.

There will be 25,000 mailings of the brochure that will include businesses whose owners reside in Coon Rapids and apartment buildings as well as single-family, duplex and townhome residents, Gatlin said.

Apartment residents are among the largest users of city parks, he said.

A second mailing with specific polling place information will take place in October.

Latest figures provided by Gatlin show $17.1 million in bond proceeds being spent on construction and design, $15 million of that for construction.

The $17.1 million includes $1.35 million set aside for design and testing and 5 percent, or $750,000, built into the budget for contingencies.

Over and above that amount, bond issuance charges of $270,000, with $140,000 in bond underwriting and $130,000 in legal and financial costs, will bring the total to $17.37 million.

According to Gatlin, depending on the interest rate on the bond that is sold if the referendum passes, interest paid over the 20-year life of the bond is estimated at $5.1 million for a total overall cost of $22.470 million.

Those bond interest costs would be included in the annual debt service levy, which is part of the property taxes paid each year.

The Coon Rapids Parks and Recreation Commission hosted an open house July 8 inviting stakeholder groups, the users of the city parks, such as the Coon Rapids Athletic Association and the three little leagues operating in the city.

The commission was looking for specific feedback from the representatives of these groups on the proposed concepts and there was really good discussion, Gatlin said.

The hope is that the stakeholder groups like the Coon Rapids Athletic Association and the little leagues spearhead the grass roots effort to pass the bond referendum, he said.

While members of the Parks and Recreation Commission can work on behalf of the bond issue on an individual basis, by law they cannot as a group, nor can the council, according to Gatlin.

There was discussion on the proposal to fully renovate Sand Creek Park, which is not only the city’s largest park complex, but also houses the Coon Rapids American Little League, which owns property within the park.

The renovation plan would among other things reconfigure the existing softball fields, Gatlin said.

“One of the problems we have right now is that one of the softball fields is close to the Little League fields and home runs from the softball teams are landing and striking Little League players and spectators,” he said.

“The softball field fence is only 240 to 250 feet from the Little League field and with today’s high tech equipment, players are hitting home runs over 300 feet.”

Not only will the redesign of Sand Creek Park eliminate that problem, it will provide the Little League with improved facilities for T-ball and practice, Gatlin said.

There are also T-ball fields planned at Riverview Park where the Coon Rapids National Little League plays.

Flexibility has been built into the process, which why the proposed improvements are in concept form right now, Gatlin said.

For example, at the Parks and Recreation Commission open house, Ted Schmolke, president of the Coon Rapids Athletic Association, speaking on behalf of the Coon Rapids Soccer Association, raised the issue of the rest rooms at the Coon Rapids Soccer Complex.

“They have residential plumbing in them, not commercial, which is beat up from heavy use and often broken,” Gatlin said.

Upgrading the plumbing at the soccer complex is not part of the bond issue proposals, but Gatlin said the work needs to be done and he will recommend that the cost, which he estimates at $100,000, be included as part of the park bond issue projects.

That does not mean increasing the bond issue total, but rather moving money within the existing budget, he said.

Another issue to be considered is at Crooked Lake Park, where improvements are included in the bond referendum.

At the Summer in the City neighborhood gathering at the park June 25, members of the council and city staff heard from several residents about the need for a bathhouse-restroom building for the many neighborhood families using the beach; they now have to use a port-a-potty, which is only emptied every three days, according to Gatlin.

“They have a valid argument,” Gatlin said.

In addition, some of the proposed tennis court renovations could include pickle ball courts.

The outdoor ice rink at the Coon Rapids Ice Center is the only location where pickle ball can be played in the city right now.

As proposed now, improvement concepts for the city’s parks and trails included the park bond referendum are:

• Sand Creek Park, full renovation, new tennis courts/skate park.

• Riverview Park, redevelopment according to the 2011 plan, plus new skate park, playgrounds, T-ball fields.

• Crooked Lake Beach Park, full renovation to improve layout, tennis courts, trails, playground.

• Regional trails expansion – Coon Creek, Sand Creek and 85th Avenue.

• Eliminating trail gaps.

• Lions Coon Creek Park, improve layout and group shelters, renovate play areas.

• Riverwind Park, new basketball court, small skate park, playground and renovate parking/trails.

• Delta Park, complete renovation.

• Mason Park, complete renovation and improve passive amenities.

• Woodcrest Park, complete renovation, new play area and shelter, disc golf course.

• Pheasant Ridge Park, improve trails/connections, update playground and amenities, new group shelter.

• Construction of Boulevard Park in front of the Coon Rapids Ice Center, with splash pad, play area, picnic space/seating.

Peter Bodley is at
[email protected]