Marathon won’t sell Veterans Park…yet
Ahrens wants funding first
The Marathon City Village Board last week Wednesday voted to authorize administrator Andy Kurtz to continue to negotiate the sale of Veterans Park to help advance a new, fourdiamond sports complex on land currently in Marathon township. The board, however, responding to objections raised by trustee Mark Ahrens, agreed not to actually commit to sell the village property at this time.
Kurtz told board members that he has lined up 93 percent of the funding needed for the $3,862,179 facility and, perhaps, even all of it if the board is willing to approach the project with a skinny contingency fund.
The funding, he said, includes $250,000 from the sale of a small softball field on Chestnut Street to Marathon Cheese Corp. and $750,000 from the sale of Veterans Park to an unnamed real estate development firm. The project will require, he said, $2,289,000 in donations from eight different parties, including Marathon School District. Kurtz said he is submitting grant applications to these various sources of funding.
The administrator said two large donations for the project were firm and “would not walk away” and that he was “confident” he would be able to finance the project without spending any village tax money.
Board members said they appreciated Kurtz saying they would not have to come up with gap funding for the project.
“That’s what I want to hear,” said trustee Conne Ruplinger.
“I like it,” said village president David Belanger.
Kurtz requested the board vote to sell Veterans Park as a way to smooth along negotiations with the real estate developer.
Ahrens, however, said he flatly opposed that move. “I am against that 100 percent,” he said. “We shouldn’t be selling anything [at this time]. I am not for this at all.”
Ahrens said he would not vote to sell Veterans Park until all the needed donations and land sales were confirmed and final. He said he opposed spending any village taxpayer funds on the project.
The trustee, further, questioned the need for four diamonds at the sports complex, noting that a softball diamond at Marathon Area Elementary School (MAES) was going to be upgraded and used temporarily while the new diamonds are under construction. He questioned spending public money for the four diamonds when taxpayers had already paid for one elementary school diamond that could be used.
“I don’t know that we need four diamonds,” he said. The trustee said the new sports complex would be expensive to maintain. Staff would be needed to mow lawns and schedule games, he said.
Ahrens said he would prefer to spend village funds on a new grocery store in Marathon City rather than on a softball and baseball diamond sports complex.
He underscored that the sports complex proposal must not impact village taxes.
“Show me a zero number...a wash,” he said. “Then I’m in.”
Responding to Ahrens, Kurtz said the four diamonds were needed given the hundreds of Marathon youth signed up for softball and baseball each year. He said that current practice sessions are limited given the village’s shortage of fields.
Trustee Jeff Lawrence said rental of the Marathon softball and baseball fields could generate revenue that could pay for annual maintenance of the facility. Trustee Ruplinger agreed, saying that 10U and 12U baseball teams were always looking for facilities to play at.
The project would be located on the east side of CTH NN across the highway from MAES. People would be able to access it by a walkway under the highway. A child care center sponsored by St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church would co-locate at the site. The sports complex and day care center would be served by village water and sewer. The complex will feature two large pavilions and be able to serve as the site for Fun Days, the community’s Labor Day weekend festival.
A draft budget for the project included the following costs:
_ Excavation and site development, $267,575.
_ Utility construction, $225,790.
_ Pavillion and concourse construction, $682,500.
_ Field construction, $1,250,000.
_ Parking lot construction, $418,500.
_ Pedestrian tunnel, $100,000.
_ Sidewalk and walkway, $190,100.
_ Landscaping, $30,000.
_ Contingency, $221,513.
Trustee Keith Paul abstained from voting on the directive to Kurtz.