Parks update // Upcoming meeting key to future of Southwest dog park

CORRECTION: The date of the public hearing about a dog park in Southwest changed after the publication of the Oct. 31 Southwest Journal. The public hearing will be held either Nov. 22 or Dec. 7. The Journal will update readers when the Park Board finalizes the date. 

Upcoming meeting key to future of Southwest dog park

Two upcoming meetings will likely determine the site and funding for a dog park in Southwest.

A citizen’s advisory committee has made a primary and secondary recommendation for a site. The preferred site is on top of what is now a parking lot near Lyndale Farmstead Park. The secondary site is just to the south of the parking lot, near the Theodore Wirth Home.

On either Nov. 22 or Dec. 7, the Park Board’s planning committee will hold a public hearing on the potential sites before making its own recommendation to the full Park Board.

On the same night, the Park Board’s Administration and Finance Committee will vote on a delayed 2011 Capital Improvements Program that allocates $100,000 for the dog park to go along with $32,500 that had already been set aside for the project.  

Park Board staff estimates that the preferred site would cost between $96,000 and $185,000.

Jennifer Ringold, the Park Board’s manager of public engagement, said that if the project gets the additional $100,000 in funding, it would likely be able to ensure that the base needs of the project are met, and the remaining money could go toward added amenities, such as water fountains.

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Park Board’s budget has no tax increase, no layoffs

Minneapolis Superintendent Jayne Miller’s 2012 budget will reduce the Park Board’s workforce by 18 full-time positions from last year, but she is not proposing a tax increase or any layoffs.

Many of her proposed budget cuts were made in July, after she met with Park Board commissioners on a budget retreat. Notice was given of the proposed cuts, but the Park Board never approved the budget adjustments.

Miller eliminated 10 full-time park keeper positions in July, as well as three mobile equipment operators. Some of the park-keeping work was shifted from full-time employees to part-time employees, as the Park Board added 8,800 seasonal park keeper hours.

In total, Miller’s budget reduces the number of full time positions from 483 to 465, when factoring in the mid-year adjustments. When part-time hours are considered, overall Park Board staffing would decrease from 811 to 801.

All reductions were handled through eliminating vacant positions, not through layoffs.

Miller’s most significant proposal is the closure of Fort Snelling golf course.

It’s unclear if the Park Board will be able to close the course because it has a lease with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that includes a revenue sharing pact.

According to Park Board records, the Fort Snelling golf course lost $75,000 in 2010. The course has lost money every year since 2000, including a loss of $105,000 in 2007.

The Park Board would spend $58.4 million in 2012 under Miller’s budget, down slightly from $58.7 million in 2011.

In her budget materials, Miller also included a list of requests from Park Board members that did not get included in the budget, mostly due to financial restraints.

For instance, Commissioner Brad Bourn (Sixth District) asked for lifeguards at every public swimming area.

Park Board President John Erwin asked for more swimming docks, as well as the introduction of yoga programs and stationary bikes around the Chain of Lakes. He also wanted a bigger movie screen for Movies in the Park and an ice skating rink at Loring Park.

Those requests were left out of the budget, and Miller mostly held to the overwhelming request of Park Board commissioners to “Maintain what we have,” as Commissioner Anita Tabb wrote in her requests.

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New leader takes over at Minneapolis Parks Foundation

Cecily Hines is out and Mary deLaittre is in as president of the Minneapolis Parks Foundation.

deLaittre takes over on Nov. 1 for Hines, who is stepping down. deLaittre spearheaded the Minneapolis Riverfront Design Competition and is also leading the development of that design.

Hines was the Parks Foundation’s first president after the organization was created three years ago. She will serve on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Reach Nick Halter at nhalter@mnpubs.com.