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Pavilion proposed for downtown park

Pavilion proposed for downtown park Pavilion proposed for downtown park

Group plans restrooms, pavilion, fire pit and splash pad for city project

If things come together as planned, an underutilized city parking lot on Whelen Street will become the centerpiece of a downtown recreation and entertainment area. A special committee has been working for more than a year to develop ideas. On Monday night, Sue Emmerich and city coordinator Joe Harris presented those ideas to the Medford city council and updated council members on their projected timeline.

According to Emmerich, they are looking to do the work in a series of phases as funding is available. The focal point of the project will be to construct a 106 foot, eight inch long by 26 foot wide pavilion to run parallel with the Black River. The pavilion will include men’s and women’s restrooms, a mechanical room and an enclosed concession area with sinks and serving window. The remaining 80 feet of the structure will be open space.

The planned pavilion is large enough to have vendors from the weekly farmer’s market utilize it to display their goods as well as be able to be used for rentals and other downtown events. To the north of the proposed shelter, the committee is seeking to have a lighted splash pad installed which will also be able to be flooded and used for an outdoor skating rink in the winter. The project also includes a gas fire pit that will be timer-controlled on the south end of the new green space with a seating area around it.

Emmerich said they are continuing to work on how to pay for the project. She said between the city and community groups through Medford Area for Tomorrow, Inc. (MATI) they have applied for more than $2.1 million in COVID relief grants and are awaiting word on if they were approved. Emmerich noted the “announce date” for those grants was supposed to be mid-December but the state had delayed in making announcements after being flooded with requests.

In addition to seeking grants, they also received a pledge of $55,000 from Marathon Cheese for the project along with other fundraising efforts. Emmerich noted that Harris generated $240 from spending time in the dunk tank at the Friends of the Downtown Chair Affair event last summer.

Emmerich noted that some grants were available to the city while others were open to nonprofits and they are seeking to maximize the potential to receive any grants.

“Even if we get something it is better than nothing,” Emmerich said.

She said that in order to make the project happen, it would take collaboration between the city, the community and local businesses and industry.

While supportive of the bathrooms and pavilion, Bub questioned the splash pad concept. He called for examples of other communities that have a splash pad in their downtown.

Emmerich noted that the idea of it is not to compete with the city pool, but to provide a recreational activity for youth while their parents were in the downtown or at events.

Mayor Mike Wellner said the city needed to keep focused on their goal of bringing more people into the downtown and how this project might do it here, rather than being concerned with what other communities included in their projects.

Wellner cited the planned opening of a microbrewery this year as well as new dining spaces as being positive steps to improve flow to the downtown.

“You have to get them down there,” Wellner said. Aldermen voted to recommend moving forward with the project as presented. This will open the door to the park group to do additional fundraising in the community for the project as well as for other projects including the construction of a performance stage in the city park.

In other downtown redevelopment action, aldermen voted to move forward with the purchase of the former Riverhouse building located at 153 W. State Street for a cost of $125,000. The city will have additional cost to demolish the building.

According to Wellner, the city had approved purchasing the building last spring during a closed session meeting with the condition that all tenants had to move out of the building prior to the sale.

“What are we going to do with it?” Bub asked. Wellner said the city would likely tear it down and then look to find someone to purchase the property to develop it or use the space for other purposes.

The purchase price is coming from $317,000 in community development block grant funding the city has from the closure of the previous revolving loan fund.

Baseball field contract

The city of Medford will take over more of the duties in the day to day operation of the city baseball fields under a new agreement with Medford City Baseball, Inc.

In 2017, the city entered into a lease with the baseball group handing over control of the fields. Since then the group has done some major improvements to the facility converting the previous softball diamond to a baseball and little league field.

Under terms of the new five-year contract: Medford City Baseball will have control of the fields from May 1 to August 31. Previously it was March 1 through October 31.

The city will take over daily maintenance of the restrooms in the concession building. The group will continue to maintain them during tournaments but Wellner noted the group was having difficultly finding volunteers to do daily cleaning of the public restrooms as well as keeping them stocked.

In exchange for the city taking over more maintenance, the city is also cutting back on the amount of the annual payment to the group from $5,000 to $4,000 per year. Harris noted the city would have additional mowing in the spring and fall there as well as the bathrooms.

Bub questioned scheduling for possible use of the fields in early fall and how that would be handled. Harris said they would go through the city and that it would be like any other park space.

Aldermen voted to recommend approval of the new five year lease agreement.

In other business, aldermen:

_ Recommended approval of an employee benefi ts plan document. The document formally defines all the benefits that city employees receive such as health, dental and retirement. It is supposed to be approved annually and is given to new hires. “This is the annual update we do every six years,” Roiger said.

_ Recommended adoption for the Taylor County Hazard Mitigation Plan. This will aid the city in receiving state and federal disaster aids in the case of a disaster. According to city clerk Ashley Lemke, the city is supposed to approve this every five years but missed doing it in the past and is getting back on track.

_ Recommended hiring SEH to do the engineering work on the planned capital upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant for a cost of $179,300. The project will consist of removing old blowers and upgrading to energy efficient blowers and installing fine air diffusers in cells 2 and 3 at the plant. Money for the project is included in the sewer utility’s 2022 budget.