Kenny Park repairs could fall to city’s budget axe

The Kenny Park building was slated for a $420,000 upgrade in 2003 — not an expansion, but routine repairs to the roof, mechanical and electrical systems.

It is one of the less glamorous line items in the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board capital budget. It is one of many low-profile items the board said would get cut if the city’s current budget fix goes forward.

The Park Board had begun a phased increase in its capital (building) budget in 2001 and 2002, under a deal cut with former Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. The current city budget-tightening plan takes back those increases.

Park Board President Bob Fine said the board already promised to fund such projects as the Northeast Water Park. The city’s plan would eliminate any new capital projects in 2003, including the repairs to Kenny Park, located at West 58th Street and Fremont Avenue, between Kenny School and Anthony Middle School.

"No additional work will be done in 2003," Fine said. "There isn’t anything we will be able to pay for."

The Park Board built the shelter in 1955; it did a minor expansion in 1985, said Joel Brand, park director.

The building has bathrooms, a warming room for the winter ice rink, a small kitchen/craft room and a small meeting room.

As the Park Board tries to build public support for maintaining its budget, however, it faces a public relations challenge — at least with the Kenny Neighborhood Association, where there has been some friction.

"There has been a sense in Kenny that the park and the neighborhood are operating separately," said Dan Quirk, KNA president. "We don’t have input on what happens at the park. We don’t know how to get input."

For example, Quirk said that KNA didn’t know the park was going to host an Aquatennial event; it could have synchronized its neighborhood festival had it known.

Quirk said KNA didn’t know about the planned $420,000 facelift.

Park Board staffer Brand said anyone is welcome to come in and suggest programs.

"We used the Kenny Neighborhood Association newsletter and said if you have suggestions or ideas for programs we’d like to hear them," he said. "We didn’t get one response."

"This is a small park," Brand said. "We have very, very limited resources. We have had people in the neighborhood come to us and want us to be a service provider to them. There are things we can and cannot do."

John Beneke, a member of the Kenny School site council, said efforts are underway to start a foundation for the school, which could also benefit the park. The foundation becomes official Sept. 1. It would help with capital projects and may be able to help with park projects down the road.

"It will be a huge partnership we will have to create," he said.