Parks update // Wi-Fi on the way to parkland; nodes to go up soon

On April 1, the Park Board unanimously voted to approve a contract that will allow the installation of up to 44 nodes for the city’s wireless Internet network.

The football-sized boxes should start going up on parkland light poles in late May, with a network completion date expected at the end of July, said Lynn Willenbring, the city’s chief information officer.

After originally being concerned about the aesthetic and historical impacts the nodes could have on parkland, commissioners said they came around after residents appeared to be OK with the idea.

“I’m confident that they’re feeling pretty good about this,” Commissioner Tracy Nordstrom said.

Parks staff recommended the approval, which stood in contrast to their response in December, when the Park Board denied the request for installations after feeling the issue had been sprung upon them at the last second.

The project had been in the works on the city end for years, but commissioners said they’d never been an official part of the process.

With the Park Board’s approval come several understandings, including that all nodes will be painted to match their respective light poles’ colors.

Installation of new plain-wood temporary poles, like the ones around Lake of the Isles that caused a stir last year, will not be allowed, while already existing temporary poles will remain in place until permanent replacements arrive next month. USI will be responsible for any costs related to the nodes.

It’s expected that about 16 recreation centers in the parks system will apply to get free access to the Wi-Fi network.

During negotiations, the Park Board also asked for a 10 percent discount if the entire system were to switch to USI service, but that was denied. USI CEO Joe Caldwell in a letter to the board said that even without the requested discount, the parks system could save as much as $80,000 per year by making the switch.

“This was a challenging process, and I’m glad that everything worked out well for all the parties involved,” said City Council Member Betsy Hodges, the council’s intergovernmental relations liaison.

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Band shell audience area to be paved by summer

The audience area around the Lake Harriet Band Shell will have a spiffy new look this summer, from the seats to the ground.

All audience benches are currently being refurbished, said Paul Hokeness, Lakes District manager. Each of the benches’ backs are being replaced with new wood, he said, while the metal frames are being repainted. The benches should be done by the end of April and will be reinstalled in coordination with the project’s second part: new pavement.

The currently dirt-and-grime ground will be covered with bricks, a result of fundraising by nonprofit People for Parks.

The group has been raising money for such a project since last year.

The project is expected to be completed before the summer concert season begins.

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Commission sets dates for governance-overhaul hearings

Dates and locations are set for the public to chime in on the overhaul of city governance and the elimination of the independent Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

The Charter Commission is hosting four meetings to discuss a set of charter amendments that would bring the Park Board under the city’s wing, eliminate the Board of Estimates and Taxation and create a city administrator position.

All open to — and meant for — the public, they will be held:

• 6:30–8:30 p.m. April 23 in the board room at Minnesota Transitions School, 2872 26th Ave. S.

• 6:30–8 p.m. April 28 at North Regional Library, 1315 Lowry Ave. N.

• 6:30–8 p.m. April 30 at Northeast Library, 2200 Central Ave. NE.

• 6:30–8 p.m. May 7 in the lower level of St. Joan of Arc Church, 4500 Clinton Ave. S.