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Mayor invokes veto power on ice rink ARPA allocation

Veto will be on April 26 RF City Council agenda

By Sarah Nigbor

RIVER FALLS – In a 4-3 vote at the April 12 River Falls City Council meeting, the council approved the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Plan with a friendly amendment to allocate $100,000 toward an outdoor ice rink project at Glen Park. However, Mayor Dan Toland has invoked his veto power and the council will need to vote on the veto at its April 26 meeting.

Alderperson Sean Downing proposed the amendment, saying it would allow people to partner with community businesses and hopefully build an ice rink within two years rather than waiting to complete the Glen Park Master Plan.

“It’s been 10 years that we’ve not had a skating rink for our community,” Downing said. “Ten years is too long. Waiting another five, you're going to have an upset commu nity and not be able to use an underutilized park in the winter.”

Toland was not comfortable with the amendment, since the Park and Recreation and Comprehensive plans are in progress. Alderperson Diane Odeen said she thinks using ARPA funds for other things is going to free up money for projects such as the ice rink going forward. “I see the ice rink as something that merits a longer discussion, more detailed plans perhaps, you know, an outreach plan,” Odeen said.

Alderperson Scott Morrissette, who iden- tified himself as an ardent supporter of having an ice rink, said he too prefers to wait until the current Comprehensive plans in progress are finished and community priorities iden – tified. Alderperson Nick Carow said the ice rink is long overdue.

“It is a need because you can barely get ice time at the university,” Carow said.

If a ball park and gymnastic center can get built with naming rights, why can’t a rink, Carow mused.

Alderperson Alyssa Mueller also expressed her support, voting yes to the amendment along with Carow, Downing and Alderperson Ben Plunkett. Odeen, Morrissette and Todd Bjerstedt voted no on the amendment. The council then passed the original ARPA Plan resolution 6-1, with Morrissette dissenting.

But that’s not the end of the ice rink matter. In a memo to City Clerk Amy White dated April 14, Toland informed her of his intent to invoke his veto power and asked for a vote to be scheduled April 26.

Per state statute, a two-thirds vote (five council members) is required to override the veto. The mayor’s memo listed his objections to the $100,000 ice rink appropriation: I don't wish for stau to be distracted from current priorities and important projects by adding a $100,000 ice rink project to the list. I also am not in favor of adding the wage study or transportation utility feasibility to the work plan for 2022.

We have an established, thoughtful and proven process of identifying community priorities and getting them implemented. The ice rink project is not on the current priority list.

$100,000 can be better spent on items previously identified as current priorities. In fact, I would prefer that amount of money be used toward ash tree replacements.

$100,000 does not match either the $700,000 estimate for a warming house/outdoor rink (2014) or the more recent (2022) $50,000 estimate for a basic outdoor rink.

I wish to wait for the completion of the comprehensive planning process to see if the ice rink remains a priority for the community among the many desired park and recreation investments that may be identified in the out –

door recreation plan.

"My objection does not reflect any con cerns about eventually constructing an outdoor ice rink,” Toland wrote in his memo. “Since election, I have been an advocate for City parks. In particular, I was a driving force in prioritizing the master planning of Hou man and Glen parks and the investment in a significant refresh of Glen Park and Glen Park Pool.”

Toland goes on to say that he’s in favor of adding a warming house, outdoor ice rink and large central playground to Glen Park as called for in the master plan, but feels city stau is not ready to implement it yet without a more detailed and strategic approach.

The city will receive $1.67 million in ARPA funds from the federal government to aid in recovery from the COVID-19 pan- demic. City stau presented options for the funds’ use, along with City Administrator Scot Simpson’s recommendations, at a Feb. 22 city council workshop. The recommended spending plan would reduce planned tax levy use by $740,000 over the next five years. The recommended use for the $1.677 million is broken down like this:

• $740,000 projects with levy as a funding source

• $670,000 for South Wasson Lane reconstruction • City matching portion of $205,000 for the Powell Avenue bridge deck

• $62,000 for City Hall projects funded with non-levy sources. The $740,000 in projects with levy as a funding resource can be further broken down like this:

• $188.500 in vehicle replacements (four police squad cards)

• $150,000 in wayfinding projects

• $106,700 for neighborhood park playground equipment

• $75,000 sidewalk infill from Mound View Road to East Pomeroy Street

• $64,800 to replace emergency sirens

• $55,000 for the Public Works facility

• $40,000 for the Collins Park trail reconstruction • $30,000 for a wage and compensation study

• $30,000 for a transportation utility feasibility study If the $100,000 allocation toward an ice rink stands, the money will have to be taken from one of the projects listed above.

Other business

• The council approved Bakke Norman as the city's prosecutor for a flat fee of $2,000 per month, excluding circuit court appeals. Deanne Koll is the primary attorney assigned to handle the city’s prosecution services. A total of $57,500 was spent on legal fees in 2021.

• The council approved forwarding an annexation petition, submitted by Mary Thompson of Thompson Family LLC, to the Plan Commission. The petition is regarding two parcels in the Town of Troy along Radio and Paulson roads totaling 43 acres.

• The council authorized the purchase of a 2022 John Deere 6120M tractor from Midwest Machinery for $123,800, plus $21,252 for a replacement snow pusher, $38,153 for a replacement mower, minus $36,712 for a trade, for a final purchase price of $146,493.

• The council authorized the purchase of a 2022 John Deere 410L tractor backhoe from McCoy Forestry & Construction for $162,777, minus $44,500 for trade, for a final purchase price of $118,277.

April 26, 2022