Parks update // Superintendent start date

Board eyes November as start date for superintendent

The Park Board has adopted a preliminary timeline for its upcoming search for a new superintendent. When commissioners hope to be all done: September.

According to the timeline, included in a request for proposals for search firms sent out in February, the board would like to have its new superintendent begin Nov. 1, days after Minneapolis hosts a major national parks conference. Other deadlines in the timeline include hiring a search firm by the end of this month, holding public input sessions in April and formally opening up the position in May.

Board President John Erwin said the dates aren’t strict — “this is not absolutely fixed,” he said — but they do represent the overall hopes of most commissioners.

It notably doesn’t represent everyone — in particular, Commissioner Jon Olson, who earlier also fought the decision to begin the search for a new superintendent. Olson said he was concerned about having the superintendent begin in the middle of the board’s annual budget-setting period, which usually concludes in December. It would be a very contentious time to arrive, Olson said.

“I think the timeline is just bad,” he said.

Commissioner Carol Kummer, who also voted against opening up a search, said it “would be very, very strange. It might be somewhat cumbersome.”

But others on the board noted that because of the economy, budgets have been in such a constant state of flux that the arrival date has become somewhat of a moot concern.

The board approved the request for proposals 7–1, with Olson voting “no” and Commissioner Bob Fine abstaining.

Unresolved is the board’s intent with current Superintendent Jon Gurban, whose contract expires June 30 and whom some commissioners have discussed keeping on until the search process is complete.

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Board’s D.C. priorities: Money for Plank Road, Sculpture Garden

Pouring concrete over a troubled stretch of West River Parkway is this year’s top item on the Park Board’s list of federal legislative priorities.

The wood-beam portion of the parkway, located directly behind the Mill City Museum, was closed to through traffic in October after drivers and nearby residents complained about noise and questionable safety. The board is seeking about $500,000, which likely would be just over the cost of pulling out the wood and paving the road, project manager Nick Eoloff said.

The next-highest priority is securing money to help renovate the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The item is also among issues the Park Board lobbied for at the state, where a bonding bill lay stalled when this edition of the Southwest Journal went to press. The money would help cover a large project that would tackle energy efficiency, safety and accessibility issues at the 22-year-old garden.

Rounding out the top three priorities is getting funding to help fill the gap in the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System. The board adopted a plan in 2008 to eliminate the Missing Link.

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Lumberyard site gets price tag: $8.65 million

The 14-acre Northeast riverfront site of Scherer Bros. Lumber Co., on which the Park Board already has made an earnest money down payment, will cost about $14.35 per square foot, or $8.65 million in its entirety.

That’s according to a new report from Planning Director Judd Rietkerk. When the down payment was approved in December, an appraisal was ongoing. He called the figure, which is just above the appraised value, “a fairly good deal,” especially when considering that the land would not have to be condemned.

If it moves forward, the Park Board likely won’t foot the bill alone. Parks staff has talked with relevant stakeholders, and there appears to be a consensus that only a portion of the site — stretching up to about 200 feet from the Mississippi River — be turned into parkland, Rietkerk said. For the remainder, the Park Board is looking into partnering with the city to find a developer or private funding source.

There are no exact plans for what the park would ultimately look like, but staff suggestions have included developing trails and open space. The site currently is entirely industrial.

Commissioner Bob Fine said it’s less important to have exact goals in mind now — or to even be in a hurry to develop the site for parks purposes — than it is to go ahead and lock the land up for the Park Board.

“If it’s sold to someone else,” Fine said, “we’ll never see it again.”