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Cold shoulder

Cold shoulder Cold shoulder

Council cool to baseball group’s funding request for new storage building

Aldermen questioned if they were getting the complete picture when it came to operations of the Medford baseball field complex.

Three years ago, Medford City Baseball took over management and operation of the field. They have been busy converting the former softball diamonds into a baseball and Little League diamond as well as doing numerous other field and facility improvements.

For its part, the city gives the organization $5,000 a year to help with the maintenance expense. In return, every year the organization reports on their finances and updates the city on the projects.

John Lange of Medford City Baseball was at Monday’s city council committee of the whole meeting to report on the happenings of the past year. He noted the fields have gone from being unused to having games being played almost every night of the week.

Aldermen Laura Holmes questioned why if there was more activity at the fields why there wasn’t any revenue listed from the concession stand. Lange explained that the Little League group runs the concession stand and makes contributions to field improvement projects, but that it is a separate organization and no transfer occurred in 2019, which is the period on the report.

“We are working toward the same goal,” Lange said, noting that the Little League benefits from the improvements to the complex. He said it wasn’t feasible for Medford City Baseball to run the concession stand on their own and instead rely on the parent volunteers through the Little League program.

As part of their report, Lange presented a request for the city to fund $10,000 of the $15,000 estimated cost of a new storage building at the field. The current shed is too small for the field equipment.

This was met with a cool reception by aldermen who questioned if Medford City Baseball was doing enough to help raise money for the building or was just wanting the city to pay for it.

Alderman Mike Roiger noted that part of the plan was for the group to be able to have money from the concessions to help fund field improvement. “I am not seeing the whole picture,” Roiger said of the actual revenues the field is generating.

Aldermen Christine Weix questioned if teams pay the organization to play on the fields or if they are just allowed to use it. “There is no direct agreement,” Lange said, noting it was in those groups best interest to upkeep the fields by making periodic investments.

He said it is up to whoever is in charge of operating concessions for an event to make sure they are covering their expenses.

As far as the storage shed, the group’s proposal was to build a 16 foot by 24 foot building. Alderman Clem Johnson said it would be better to go to a 24 by 24 foot building right away rather than building too small.

Roiger questioned the fundraising done by the group and suggested they should do more to generate money on their own rather than coming to the city. He also questioned why this wasn’t brought up during the budget period to be included as a capital project. “I think it should be a budget item and it is not budget time,” Roiger said.

Lange explained the group had done a sizable raffle fundraiser in 2018 but that they had wanted to hold off and do that only every other year so that they didn’t hit up the same group of people for funding every year to buy tickets.

Weix noted that while the group didn’t want to hit up people in the baseball community every year, they seem willing to come and ask for taxpayer money every year. She noted that if the city approved giving money to the project it would need to come out of city reserves which would mean there would not be money there for other projects which might come forward. She noted the city budget has already been passed.

Alderman Greg Knight said he did not have a feel that the group had an idea of what the cost would be. He called on the group to come back when they have a better plan about what the costs will be and how much donated labor or help from partner organizations they could get.

Aldermen voted to table the request for funding with Medford City Baseball to bring it back at a future date.

In other business, aldermen

_ Approved an agreement with the village of Stetsonville to operate the village’s water treatment plant. The contract is for one year and the village will be charged the city’s external work rate which covers the wages and benefits of the employee.

_ Tabled action of a request from Citizens State Bank of Cadott to grant an exception to the city’s use it or lose it provision in the liquor license codes for the former Brass Rail. The bank took ownership of the property last year and has been working to sell it. A bank representative announced at Monday’s meeting that an agreement with a buyer had been reached and that they anticipated closing on the sale before the end of the month. By tabling action, the request can come back if the sale falls through.

_ Directed city hall employees to send letters to the surrounding municipalities where people purchased city pool passes to invite them to once again contribute to the pool operations. Residents in municipalities that contribute are able to purchase the reduced-cost resident passes.

_ Approved purchasing a new tracked E85 Bobcat Compact Excavator and trailer at a cost of $105,844 from Bobcat Plus of Eau Claire. The machine will replace the existing wheeled tractor which will be sold at auction. The machine was included in the 2020 budget.

_ Approved setting the wages for swimming pool staff. Returning employees will receive 3% over what they were paid last year as an incentive to return this year.