Ballot question to ask voters about community center

A November ballot question will ask Isanti voters whether they would support increasing their city property taxes to pay for improvements to the city’s community center.

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer with some of the winners of the Mayor's July Great Yard Award. First place was Mark and Jennifer Bussen, second place was Stephanie and John Marsolek and third place was Nathan and Natalie Erickson.Photo by Elizabeth Sias

Isanti Mayor George Wimmer with some of the winners of the Mayor’s July Great Yard Award. First place was Mark and Jennifer Bussen, second place was Stephanie and John Marsolek and third place was Nathan and Natalie Erickson.Photo by Elizabeth Sias

John Bettendorf, a representative from the Community Center Task Force, presented the group’s recommendation to the City Council at the meeting Aug. 8.

At the time of the meeting, the task force’s recommendation was to try to raise funds to build a new community center.

“We certainly want to maintain the community center, but as we talked, the idea of a new building quickly sounded a lot better,” Bettendorf said.

However, Isanti Mayor George Wimmer questioned the feasibility of the request because of the high cost of the proposed project. Instead, he suggested moving forward with putting forth the question to Isanti taxpayers in November so the City Council will know the consensus of the public.

The Task Force met on Thursday, Aug. 9, and decided to support renovations to the existing building while working on a longer term vision of the Community Center of the future.

Some of the improvements outlined in the Capital Improvement Plan for the Community Center between 2012 to 2021 are replacing the fence, installing siding on the exterior of the building, replacing gutters, installing a sidewalk to connect the City Hall and Community Center parking lots, replacing interior lighting, install new flooring, replace doors, remodeling restrooms, replacing some kitchen outlets and appliances, and more.

Mayor Wimmer called a special meeting of the City Council for Friday at 8:15 a.m. to meet a deadline to place the Community Center levy question on the November ballot.

On Friday, the council will vote to on a resolution approving a proposal from Briggs and Morgan to prepare election documents for a Community Center ballot question.

“I have called the meeting Friday to approve an official ballot question be drawn up asking the voters if they support increasing their city property taxes roughly $13 per $150,000 home value for 10 years to pay for improvements that will allow the Community Center to stay functional,” Wimmer said. “That is the general idea. The exact amount will be presented on Friday as well as the exact language.”

Educating the public on the levy question will be the next hurdle, Wimmer said.

“Those numbers are monstrous to deal with by any measure,” he said. “It’s being able to show the need for the community center to the rest of the public. Even though there’s good, strong organizations there (that use the Community Center), it’s still a small fraction of the total population. So that education and marketing piece is going to be critically important.”

He explained the vote is not binding, however.

“It is a vote to allow the Council to know the consensus of the public at large,” Wimmer said. “The Council still has sole authority to do the project or not. Having said that, I do believe the Council will take strong guidance from this vote.”

Council Member Sue Larson, also a member of the Task Force, said she believes it’s important for the city to continue to operate the community center and hopes Isanti residents will support the improvement projects.

“If we do not do something, we’re looking at no budget for the community center for operations as of January 1, 2014,” she  said.

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