Blaine approves inter-fund loan for large park project

In case revenue does not come in as quickly as anticipated, the city of Blaine would like to use one of its own accounts to provide a loan to get an almost $4 million park project done.

Constructing the main park building is currently estimated to cost $875,000 of the almost $3.9 million budget for the Lexington Athletic Complex. The design is a tip of the cap to the nearby Finn Farm barn.
Constructing the main park building is currently estimated to cost $875,000 of the almost $3.9 million budget for the Lexington Athletic Complex. The design is a tip of the cap to the nearby Finn Farm barn.

The city for the past three years has been looking to develop the 38.5-acre Lexington Athletic Complex south and east of 125th Avenue and Lexington Avenue after it reached a purchase agreement with Paxmar Development.

Mayor Tom Ryan said this will probably be Blaine’s last big park to develop.

“It’s something we’ve talked about for a long time,” Ryan said. “It’s something that will really finish off that part of the community.”

The capital improvement fund was created by ordinance in 1995 to pay for projects that the council deems are of a citywide benefit, according to Finance Director Joe Huss. Initially the capital improvement fund got its money from a number of different development fee revenues and with general fund excess revenue, but Huss said it has been funded by interest earnings only for a number of years. Most expenditures that have utilized a loan from the fund have come from these interest earnings, but the council is allowed to borrow from the principal.

“It’s mostly there as an endowment fund for projects the council deems are of a sufficient communitywide benefit,” Huss said.

Huss said there is a total of $12 million in the fund. The city ordinance would not allow the principal amount to decrease below $5 million, which leaves up to $7 million that the council could take as a loan from this account next year.

The resolution the council authorized Jan. 2 allows up to $4 million to be loaned to the city’s parks development fund.

If a petition signed by a number of people equal to or greater than 10 percent of the votes cast in the last general election is filed with the city clerk within 30 days of the public hearing, this inter-fund loan proposal would be brought forward as a referendum decided by all Blaine voters. The public hearing took place during the council’s Jan. 2 meeting.

The plan for the Lexington Athletic Complex includes two baseball/softball fields, four multi-use fields for soccer, lacrosse and football, a full basketball court, three tennis courts, a playground area and a park building that would resemble the nearby Finn Farm barn.

The city initially received a projected cost of $2.18 million from SRF Consulting, but in early 2013 were told by Carlson-McCain that the cost would be closer to $3.8 million. As of Nov. 14, the estimate is $3,899,089.

Blaine has been one of the fastest growing suburbs in the metro in recent years in terms of residential growth. Similar to other communities, Blaine receives park dedication fees for residential, commercial and industrial development. The 2013-2017 parks capital improvement plan the council approved May 2, 2013 anticipated at least $800,000 in park dedication fee revenue annually between 2014 and 2017.

Although the fund balance of Blaine’s parks improvement fund is projected to stay in the black, city staff did estimate that the fund balance in this account would be about $2.65 million at the end of 2013 and below $200,000 by the time the Lexington Athletic Complex project wraps up in 2015.

“Over the next two years as the park is developed there is a hope that we’d not be required to use all that $4 million (from the capital improvement fund) that is being requested tonight if park development fees come in at a more rapid pace than we have anticipated,” Huss told the council Jan. 2.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]