The future of the Isanti Community Center was the main topic of discussion during the June 4 Isanti City Council meeting.
Isanti Mayor George Wimmer informed the council he was disappointed to learn the Isanti Community Center Task Force did not receive any grant funding through the Bremer Foundation.
And with a failed referendum last November that would have helped financially support the community center, Wimmer said the council needs to make a decision on the community center.
Council members questioned if the community was educated enough on the referendum.
“I think if the taxpayers knew at the time how little this would have cost them, I think the outcome could have been better,” Council Member Dan Collison said.
Council members thanked Council Member Sue Larson for her efforts on the Community Center Task Force.
“I don’t think people got out and educated the community about this,” Council Member Steve Lundeen said. “Sue (Larson) does so much already. … I don’t think people realized the minimal impact this would have had on their taxes.”
Wimmer said the task force wasn’t properly prepared for the referendum.
“I felt the group wasn’t ready last time, and you can’t succeed with one person doing everything,” Wimmer said. “Part of my warning to them last year was if you’re going to do this in a short time, you have to do x, y and z, and I don’t think these steps were followed. It wasn’t the role of the council to educate, but the role of the community center group.”
Wimmer said last spring he met with local churches to find homes for the different organizations that use the community center, in the event the community center would close.
Larson said the community center task force was hoping for a $120,000 grant from the Bremer Foundation that would have required a $60,000 match from the city.
“There’s always another round of grants through the Bremer Foundation,” Larson said.
Wimmer said he would have had an easier time expending funding for the community center if it had gotten the grant.
“I think it’s easier to expend dollars to bring in dollars,” Wimmer said. “I do agree there were flaws with the referendum, but there was still 60 to 65 percent that voted against it. Ultimately this is still our decision. It was a nonbinding referendum. We can still do this if we want to.”
Wimmer said the sprinkler system is the most immediate need for the community center, with an estimated cost of $34,000.
“The sprinkler system may last another five years or five minutes,” Wimmer said. “But I don’t want to knowingly go into a situation without having the system working, knowing it could fail.”
Economic Development Director Sean Sullivan said the task force has raised approximately $2,000 in fundraising efforts.
“At the next council meeting, we need to decide which avenue to go,” Wimmer said. “The whole goal is to make the community center more attractive and get it booked more often with paying events.”
Resident Michelle Hansel voiced a need for the community center.
“I don’t think we should shut the community center down,” Hansel said. “If we have a community, we need a community center.”
Wimmer informed Hansel another option is to get a petition from more than 50 percent of city residents, indicating they would support funding for the community center.
Wimmer said the petition would require approximately 1,200 signatures from city residents.
Hansel said she would be willing to go door-to-door to get the petition signed.
“There’s not a single one of us who want to see the community center close,” Wimmer said. “The hard part on us, as elected officials, was there was such a strong no vote on the referendum. We try to respect the opinion of our voters.
“We told the group by June 2 that we needed to see some dollars for this. If people are willing and ready to write checks for this, they need to contact city hall. If an individual or business is willing to donate, the group needs to find out who they are,” he added.
Larson reminded the public that the task force is offering annual sponsorships for both residents and businesses to help fund the community center.
A gold sponsorship is $500; silver sponsorship, $250; bronze sponsorship, $100; and sustainability, $50.
Larson explained the level of sponsorship will be memorialized with the business or individual name located on a plaque inside the community center.
If interested in sponsorships, contact Sue Larson at 763-286-9964.
In other action, the council:
• Approved a special event request for a run and walk event to be held from 7:30-11:30 a.m. at the Isanti Intermediate School/School for All Seasons Oct. 12. All 1-mile and 5K participants will pay a fee to participate. Funds raised will help cover the cost of the race and create a scholarship fund for Isanti Intermediate and School for All Seasons students.
• Approved a special event request for a car show to be held from 5:30-8:30 p.m. every Wednesday in June, July and August at Lake State Federal Credit Union. The shows will be used to help raise food donations for Family Pathways. Besides cars, food vendors will be on site.
• Approved a resolution adopting an Adopt-A-Park program. The program will encourage and promote community involvement, as well as beautify and improve park areas. The goal is to provide individuals, groups or other organizations with a public service opportunity that allows volunteers to help maintain the city of Isanti park system.
• Approved a resolution authorizing city staff to prepare a tobacco-free park policy.
• Awarded the bid to Larson Excavating in the amount of $628,116 for the 2013 Railroad Avenue and walk improvement project.
• Approved a resolution approving city parks rules and regulations enforcement procedure.