Coon Rapids voters approved the $17.4 million park bond referendum in Tuesday’s election, but not by much.
The final tally was 2,637 yes votes and 2,490 no votes, a 51.43 percent to 48.57 percent margin. Fourteen of the city’s 22 precincts voted for the referendum in a light turnout.
When the first five precincts reported, the yes votes only had a 661 to 643 margin, but that widened when the next wave of precincts came in and with 15 precincts reporting the votes were 1,949 yes and 1,821 no.
With only three of the precincts left to report, 22, 33 and 53, the referendum was still tight – 2,365 yes and 2,249 no – and with one precinct remaining, 33, the yes votes were ahead 2,507 to 2,389.
Ted Schmolke, who headed the Coon Rapids Vote Yes for Parks committee, was “excited” by the outcome.
“It could not be better news,” Schmolke said. “It shows me that a lot of people are willing to invest in this community and step up to the plate.”
Schmolke, who is president of the Coon Rapids Athletic Association, urged people who have ideas of what they would like to see in their parks to present them to city staff and their councilmembers, who would be very open to these ideas, he said.
The park bond issue, earmarks an estimated $15 million for parks and trails construction, with $1.35 million allocated for design and testing work, $750,000 for contingency and $270,000 for bond issue charges (underwriting and legal/financing).
When a projected $5.1 million in interest on the bonds to be paid back by the city over 20 years is factored in, the overall cost is $22.470 million.
With referendum approval, the parks and trails improvements will take place over a period of six to eight years, possibly starting as early as 2014.
The decision by the Coon Rapids City Council to move forward with the park bond referendum came after an updated parks and trials master plan, which set priorities for parks and trails improvements, was completed last year, and a recommendation from the Coon Rapids Parks and Recreations Commission.
Five cornerstone parks, which are larger parks in the city, will see improvements – Crooked Lake, Sand Creek, Pheasant Ridge, Riverview and Lions Coon Creek – and four neighborhood parks have been ranked top priorities for upgrades – Woodcrest, Delta, Mason and Riverwind.
In addition a new park will be constructed on Coon Rapids Boulevard – Boulevard Park in front of the Coon Rapids Ice Center – and upgrades will be made to the rest rooms at the Coon Rapids Soccer Complex.
Bond issue proceeds will also be used to enhance and expand the city’s trail system, including the Coon Creek Regional Trail, Sand Creek Linkage Trail, 85th Avenue trail connection to Kennedy Park, Mississippi Regional Trail, middle and northern linkage trails and filling gaps on other trails.
With passage of the referendum, detailed plans for each park to be improved will be prepared by WSB, the consultant the council hired to develop the updated master plan.
These plans will be presented at neighborhood meetings for residents living in the areas of the parks where construction will take place to give their views.
But that won’t be necessary for Riverview Park, which means reconstruction of that park could begin next year, according to City Manager Steve Gatlin.
A master plan was completed for the redevelopment of Riverview and a neighborhood meeting took place in 2011, but the council shelved the project because of lack of funds and first talks of having a referendum began, which prompted the updated master plan for all city parks and trails to be ordered.
The complete renovation of Sand Creek Park, the city’s largest park, is also expected to be one of the first projects to go forward with the park bond issue proceeds, Gatlin said.
According to the information brochure distributed by the city, the 20-year bond issue tax increase impact on residential, commercial and apartment property owners of the referendum is projected as follows:
• Home valued at $125,000, monthly increase $2.73 and $32.75 yearly.
• Home valued at $150,000, $3.48 a month increase, $41.77 a year.
• Home valued at $200,000, monthly increase $4.98 and $59.80 a year.
• Home valued at $300,000, increase of $7.99 a month, $95.85 a year.
• Commercial property valued at $300,000, $8.77 increase a month, $105.26 a year.
• Commercial property valued at $500,000, monthly tax increase of $15.45, for the year $185.46.
• Commercial property valued at $1 million, monthly increase $32.16 with a $385.96 annual hike.
• Apartment building valued at $500,000, the monthly increase would be $17.23 with $206.75 annually.
Peter Bodley is at