Students present plan for recreation center

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 24, 2003

They may have been kids, but their presentation didn’t seem far from many of those given by adults.

Sandy Sorenson’s fourth-grade class from Lakeview Elementary School made a presentation to the Albert Lea City Council Monday on a recreational center for children.

The Power Point presentation laid out a plan to give citizens their age a wintertime activity.

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&uot;There isn’t much to do here in Albert Lea during the fall and winter,&uot; one student said. &uot;We decided we need something in town to entertain kids all year long.&uot;

The students want to create a center called &uot;Kids’ Kingdom&uot; that would have laser tag, batting cages, a miniature golf course and two jungle gyms. The students had done research on the cost of every piece of equipment.

For a location, they had considered the Farmland site, but chose the soon-to-be-empty Wal-Mart building in Skyline Mall because it &uot;already exists.&uot;

The students admitted the cost for such a center would be high, but said they would hold fund raisers and ask local businesses to sponsor the center.

&uot;We realize this will cost a lot of money,&uot; another presenter said. &uot;But we think it will be a good asset for the city of Albert Lea.&uot;

The students have gone farther than just presenting the project, though. During the school year they collected more than 260 signatures for a petition. Sorenson said the students plan to pursue the project beyond the classroom.

Mayor Jean Eaton commended the children on their &uot;entrepreneurial spirit&uot; and said the council would consider the center after more research.

In other council news:

-A research and marketing firm will be hired by the city to measure local interest in a half-percent sales tax to pay for lake improvements. The city would bring the information gathered to the state legislature, which has the power to give Albert Lea the authority to hold a referendum on the tax.

If the tax gets state and local voter approval, the city could add a half-percent sales tax within city limits. An effort to get the tax proposal approved by the state legislature in 2001 failed, and the city is considering the survey to demonstrate local support before taking the proposal back to St. Paul for another try.

-The council will address the state’s new 2 a.m. bar-closing law at their next meeting. Councilor Warren Amundson said that many bar owners asked the council to consider changing the local ordinance to match the new state law, which must be done before bars can stay open later.

-The city will give $4,000 to the Celebrate Albert Lea festival, a new, annual event being planned by the Convention and Visitors Bureau that will be held at the end of August.

-A house at 1520 Hawthorne Ave. will be demolished, the council decided, but that action may be questioned in court by the property owner, Mark Moonier of Albert Lea.

The house, which has been under consideration for demolition for the past five years, has been a council agenda item many times during that period.

The city condemned the house in 1998, after which Moonier bought it with the idea to make it once again livable for use as rental property. Since he has taken the deed, he and the city have had many discussions on the process, and the city engineering department says it’s gone on for too long.

Moonier has plans, and has been working to refurbish the house, which city engineers say is in very poor shape.

Monday, Moonier brought in a Minneapolis lawyer, who argued that inclement weather and poor information given by the city have been the reasons for the long process. He also stated that Moonier has put $75,000 into the three-year project.

The council, which has tabled action to demolish the house since February, made a motion to demolish the house. City attorney Steve Schwab said it could be expected that the council’s decision will be taken, by Moonier, to litigation in a court of law.

-The city is considering creating a utiltity for street lighting.

City Manager Paul Sparks said the cost for maintaining street lamps has risen dramatically. He also said that due to recent budget cuts, many cities are considering the utility.

The council hired Bolton and Menk to do a study on the possibility, at a cost that won’t exceed $15,000.

The same company is already conducting a $17,000 study looking at a storm-sewer utility for Albert Lea.

It is not known what kind of costs would be assessed per household on either utility.

-The city officially is supportive of a joint application with nine other counties along the &uot;I-90&uot; corridor for one of the state’s job opportunity building zones (JOBZ). JOBZ are areas that are designated as tax free, for the purpose of creating jobs and economic development.

-A new lease agreement with the Freeborn County Kennel Club was reached, raising the yearly fee from $1,800 to $3,000 for rental of a room on the second floor of the city arena.