Monona Visioning Committee proposes playground for Gateway Park

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By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

With six designs selected for the new downtown steel street banners and ready to be cut out this winter by MFL MarMac industrial technology students for spring installation, members of Monona’s community visioning committee have turned their attention toward the next project: a playground at Gateway Park. 

Following the extension of the city’s popular Butterfly Trail from the Butterfly Garden to Gateway Park this summer, the idea was natural, said Monona Chamber and Economic Development Executive Director Rogeta Halvorson, who was among the visioning committee members who spoke at the Dec. 17 council meeting. 

“It will be nice to have an additional safe place for families,” shared committee member Marti Dettman Post. “The trail is utilized, and it’s logical to have a place to stop.” 

Jessica Peterson, another committee member, said Gateway Park is also a visible location from the highway. 

“It will be a nice way to grab people as they drive by,” she remarked. 

As a parent, Peterson said she gravitates toward rest stops and locations where the kids can get out and stretch their legs. Food options are located near Gateway Park, allowing families to pick up a bite to eat without traveling too far from the main road. 

With a summer farmers market at the park, as well as increased usage of the campground and proximity to the aquatic center, a playground would be another amenity, Halvorson added. 

Post said the committee will meet soon with a playground rep to determine potential designs and costs for the project. 

“It will be directed toward mixed age use,” she said, and include separate pieces rather than one large installation. 

Committee member Fran Passmore said the Gateway Park playground won’t be “near the size” of the city park playground. It will include pieces that aren’t at the city park, giving residents and visitors a variety of play options. 

Halvorson said the committee is looking at a cost range of $25,000 to $30,000. 

“You can get a lot more when you do individual pieces rather than one large one,” she commented. “You could add on pieces over time.” 

The committee will plan to do a lot of community fundraising for the project; St. Paul Lutheran Church has already agreed to donate $1,000. But she’s hopeful it will receive grant funding too. 

“With how we are connecting the trail and making it family oriented, it’s a good opportunity,” to receive funds, Halvorson noted. 

Council counters offer for property 

At the meeting, the council considered two offers for the purchase of the city-owned residential property located at 605 S. Main St. One came in at $1,200, but provided no details on future development of the site, while the other promised $101 and the intent to build a structure on the property. 

One of the provisions included in the purchase agreement was that the current structure on the lot be torn down by Sept. 1, 2019. Potential buyers were also asked to provide a plan detailing what they would do with the property.  

City administrator Dan Canton said the second offer stated an intent to build some kind of residence, possibly a duplex, on the property within 24 months. 

If the council accepted the offer, but the house was not torn down, nor a new structure built, he said the city could initiate the process to get the property back, then re-sell it. 

Councilman Doug Bachman proposed rejecting both the offers. 

“I don’t think it’s enough,” he said. 

Mayor Lynn Martinson said he felt it would be worth it just to get the old house torn down, a step that could could cost up to $8,000. 

“Our key thing is to get these old homes torn down for health reasons,” he explained. 

If the city were to tear down the house, the process would be more complicated. 

“There’s a whole different set of rules,” Canton added. “A private individual doesn’t have to jump through as many hoops.” 

Canton said it’s also important to view it from a developer’s perspective. 

“It’s a risk they’re taking in buying the property and building something they don’t know is going to sell,” he noted. “It could be a $300,000 investment. You’re looking at the long term.” 

The council ultimately decided to counter the second offer, asking the potential buyer to provide more details about the plans for the property 

Council says no to pay raise 

Mayor Martinson broached the idea of raising the compensation rate for council members and the mayor. Any salary changes, he said, would not be reflected until after the next election. 

“I know you’re not here for the money, that you want to be a servant to the public, but I feel it’s my responsibility as mayor,” to bring it up, Martinson said. “The cost has not changed in 23 years.” 

However, the council members declined to adjust the rate, noting it wasn’t important to them. Some even admitted they didn’t even know there would be compensation when they joined the council.

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