Isanti residents asked to vote on improvements to Community Center

The citizens of the city of Isanti will soon be asked to voice their opinion on the future of the Isanti Community Center.

On the Nov. 6 General Election ballot, voters in Isanti will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the following question:

“Shall the City of Isanti, Minnesota, be authorized to issue its general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $250,000 to finance the betterment and improvements to the City’s Community Center?”

Isanti City Council member Sue Larson, who is also chair of the Isanti Community Center task force, explained the Isanti Community Center was originally started with relocation of the former railroad depot to the present site. She noted the pop and beverage set-up area is an original part of the train station.

The Community Center has had four additions since that time, with the first addition in 1977 and the last in 1993. Most recently, in 2008 the entire building was re-shingled and the exterior re-painted. Interior ceiling improvements were also done.

If the ballot question passes, the Isanti City Council then will determine the specific details of the project and the exact amount spent will be determined.

In December 2010, a Community Center Capital Improvement Plan was presented to the city council that addressed the on-going needs of the community center.

Isanti Community Center Task Force member John Bettendorf explained the issue is being pursued by the city council because the maintenance costs of the building are increasing as it ages, and there are some looming expenses down the road for the building’s structure and mechanical systems.

Bettendorf explained the $250,000 renovation, as estimated, involves a complete remodel with new windows, doors, siding, roofing, interior decor, mechanical, bathrooms and more.

“Basically, it would look like a new facility,” he noted.

Bettendorf, who has lived in the Isanti community for nine  years, and owned a business in town for seven years, has been an active member of the community.

“I believe that both our city council and our residents want and need a place for the many events that happen at this facility, so the solution that was deemed most cost effective by the council, and is now on the table is to renovate the current building,” Bettendorf said. “It may be that down the road, Isanti will support a bigger and better multi-use facility.  However, the process of making that happen is many years, and I think it will still be a number of years before we’re ready as a community to invest that kind of money.

“The reason to vote ‘yes’ for this referendum is to keep the many events that happen there in our community. The impact to most residents’ taxes is less than $15 per year, and we’ll add many years of life to this facility, along with making it a much nicer place to be,” he added.

Larson explained the Community Center hosts several events such as Girl Scout and Boy Scout meetings, Isanti Lions Club events, pancake breakfasts and other special dinner fundraisers, Isanti Senior Dining events and much more. She also noted seniors really enjoy the downtown location of the Community Center since it’s close to senior housing complexes.

The Community Center also serves as the main headquarters for the Isanti County Christmas Project, which is coordinated through the Isanti Lions Club. Last year’s project benefitted over 350 families, consisting of over 850 children.

All the donated gifts and other items are collected at the Isanti Community Center and all the packing and organizing of the event takes a few days.

“All three of my kids use the community center about once a month,” Bettendorf noted.

Bettendorf said if the referendum doesn’t pass, it will be hard to find a new location for some of the activities at the Community Center.

“If the referendum fails, we as a community will need to decide if we’re willing to keep the existing building funded,” Bettendorf said. “The city council does not have funds budgeted for this. While there are some events that can find other homes, I worry particularly about the senior activities as the location of the current facility is very convenient for them, and the school facilities are not available during the day.”