By Pat Maurer
After a very brief Public Hearing and a lengthy discussion by the board, City Commissioners approved the application for a $300,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant to fund development of soccer fields on the south side of the city.
The total development cost would be $1.2 million. City Manager Ken Hibl reported, “We do not presently have the financial means to complete the entire development. Our Recreation Advisory Board has proposed a phased project with the first phase which would provide the needed fields to support and expand the current community soccer program, provide required paved parking and provide the handicap-accessible trail and pathway network depicted on the site plan at a cost of approximately $600,000.
The grant, if approved, would require matching local funds, which would come from donations and a loan, which would be paid back over ten years with money from the Parks and Recreation millage.
Commissioner Jean McConnell said, “My concern with this is that everyone understands that there will be very little (millage) money left for other capital improvements.”
Parks and Recreation Director Amanda Holey explained that the soccer complex is “the number one priority of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, and that they were recommending applying for the $300K grant. She said payments on the loan, plus $19,000 in annual payments on the property would leave “a few thousand” for other things.
City Manager Ken Hibl said if the repayment amount using almost all of the millage funds over the next ten years was a problem, the matching funds, and the grant request, could be reduced to $200,000.
Holey said that would mean community trail development on the property might not be possible if the project plans have to be changed.
Commissioner Bob Bonham questioned whether there would be funds to maintain the new fields after they are developed. “My concern is how much additional we will need to maintain this project,” he said.
Holey said the city would be maintaining 19 acres rather than the 16 currently in use and maintained at the airport property.
Don Hamilton of Lapham and Associates, who are designing the project, said they have estimated a $3,000 annual cost for upkeep, which will be a part of the grant.
Hibl also noted that the soccer program is “making money. It is presently the only program that is,” he said.
Holey added that MidMichigan Community College would be using the fields for their program and have said they would offer financial support. “We have until October to submit the financial commitment,” she said, adding that $110,000 in excavation costs have been offered as a donation to the project.
Hibl noted that the (grant) application deadline is April 1 for this year. He said the project would probably not begin until next year, because the grants are normally awarded in the fall.
The board voted 4-1 to apply for the $300K grant with Bob Bonham voting no.
In another matter, Pere Marquette Library Director Sheila Bissonette reported to the board that the library will one of six sites in the State to host The Smithsonian Institution exhibit, “The Way We Worked” from April 9 to May 18. The exhibit will spotlight the history of work over the past 150 years in the country, state and locally.
The Exhibit opening is April 9 with a presentation by author Robert Knapp. Other presenters include Jack Westbrook April 11; Dr. Jeffrey Wigand April 16; John Beck April 23; Bill Jamerson on April 30 and for a walking tour of Wilson State Park on May 4; and on May 7 by Darrin Doyle and Robert Fanning.
Other business at Monday’s meeting included:
*Recognition of Firefighter Norm Yoder for 15 years of service to the city.
*Approval of a Pedestrian & Bicycle Trails Master Plan Grant application.
*Approval excusing Bob Bonham from April meetings for medical reasons if necessary.
*Approval of the payment of bills totaling $101,902.10.