Monthly Archives: November 2007

MPRB Regular Board Meeting

Details for Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Commissisoners Meeting

Commissioners Walt Dziedzic, Bob Fine, Carol Kummer, Mary Merrill Anderson, Tracy Nordstrom, Tom Nordyke, Scott Vreeland, Annie Young and President Olson.

Rebroadcasts of current meetings can be seen on Channel 14 only on Thursday at 2 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. Rebroadcast of the previous meeting can be seen on Channel 14 on Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 a.m.

Date:   11/28/2007
Time:   5:00-8:00 p.m.
Type:   Regular
Location:       MPRB Administrative Offices, Board Room Suite 255
Address:        2117 West River Road, Minneapolis

Park Board Agenda

Mpls Park Board takes surprise vote on Crown Hydro project

On Nov. 7, 2007 the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board planning committee considered what was billed as a “study/report item” on an “updated Crown Hydro proposal.” But instead of the usual report from their own staff, park commissioners heard only from the developer of the proposed hydropower plant at St. Anthony Falls. The committee’s ability to study the proposal was hindered by the fact that they had no information about it until the meeting was underway. Even so, Commissioner Carol Kummer, with support from President Jon Olson, moved to advance the project with an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) and a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC or “cack”). Other commissioners cried foul, since such actions don’t usually take place on agenda items that are supposed to be for study and discussion, and because the public wasn’t allowed to speak on the action. The commissioners finally did stray beyond “study/report” and took a vote to authorize a staff review of the new proposal that the developer, Crown Hydro, had only just handed them — without taking any comment from the public. Indeed, when President Olson stated that “This project has had public input for quite a while,” he should have said this project has NOT had public input for quite a while: the last time the park board allowed public comment on a Crown Hydro proposal was 2004.

Grand Rounds Missing Link Update

By Anna Pratt , Special to the TC Daily Planet from 11/14/2007

Controversial Como route eliminated, but a new route proposal resurrects similar fears among residents

On Nov. 1, the citizen advisory committee (CAC) to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) rejected a controversial route proposed for the Como neighborhood that would have taken out dozens of homes to complete a segment of the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. A new route proposal, unveiled at that meeting, calls for tearing down around 30 homes plus some businesses on Hennepin Avenue East, between 26th and 27th Avenues Southeast, causing a new stir among some Como residents.

HNTB project manager Tom Johnson stressed that things are still in a conceptual stage, however, “[The new route] is better in terms of housing and businesses and is more compatible with the U. It also has a joint use of Granary Road. It makes a lot of sense,” he said. Granary Road is a new road that would be built under the proposal.

The 50-mile Grand Rounds, accessible by car, bike or on foot, remains unfinished between St. Anthony Parkway South and East River Road. The CAC is trying to figure out the most ideal path for this “missing link,” with the help of a technical advisory committee (TAC) and HNTB Corporation. The CAC will present its recommendation to the Park Board in spring 2008.

Read more T C Daily Planet

OPEN TIME comments from 11-07-2007 regarding the DeLaSalle Stadium Issue

The Minneapolis Park Board has a deal, or had a deal, to let DeLaSalle High School build a football stadium on park property. This is supposed to be a public-private partnership. Three questions:

First: What kind of public-private partnership has a groundbreaking ceremony that’s closed to the public? Last month several park commissioners and staff attended just such an invitation-only, private event at DeLaSalle. A private groundbreaking doesn’t bode well for public access to the project.

Second: What kind of partnership is it when the private developer won’t give the public partner its financing plan? Your deal from March 2006 says QUOTE:
“DeLaSalle shall provide the MPRB with a financing plan for the construction of the athletic fields and detailed commitments to complete the project prior to the commencement of construction of the project.” (RUA 2.4 “Conditions Precedent”, March 1, 2006)

A year and a half later DeLaSalle emails you QUOTE:
“A copy of the written commitment for funding is available for confidential viewing. We suggest review by a single designee of the board. … This written commitment can be inspected at our offices upon request by the Minneapolis Park Board.” (Br. Michael Collins to Jon Olson, Sept. 4, 2007)

So instead of providing a financing plan as the deal requires, DeLaSalle wants the park board to send an emissary to peek at a confidential letter? Again, not much of a partnership.

Third: What kind of partner tries to change the deal so if you, the park board, exercise your right not to renew the agreement at the end of its term, the public has to pay the private developer every cent ever spent on the project? That’s what DeLaSalle’s lawyer sent your lawyer last month. That’s not a partnership, that’s Rumplestiltskin demanding your first born child.

The deal has to be re-done because park staff decided not to run it by the state finance department, although they knew they were supposed to. In February, 2006 Park Board Attorney Brian Rice told the park board: QUOTE “You probably will need the state Department of Finance to give a release.” And in January 2005, park planning director Director Judd Rietkerk wrote a memo saying the state would QUOTE “have issues” with the deal. That’s from this week’s Southwest Journal newspaper. In the same article, State Assistant Commissioner of Finance Peter Sausen says the current agreement doesn’t meet the necessary requirements.  QUOTE “They have to make changes to the reciprocal use agreement and come back to us which they have not done yet.”.

After all this, Park Board General Manager Don Siggelkow told the newspaper, “We don’t necessarily agree that they [the state] do have a purview over it, but they feel it’s important, so we will conform to that.” According to the article, park staff plan to get the state’s OK on a changed deal, then bring it to the park board at your next meeting on November 28. If so, tonight is the last chance for public comment on new terms for this public-private partnership, but no new deal has been made public yet.

Your most important partnership is with your public partner, the citizens of Minneapolis. You should not take action on a new, radically different deal from private developer DeLaSalle without a public hearing. Thank you.

Printed with permission of the author, Chris Stellar

Family, Friends Mourn Officer Killed By Squad Car

Nov 9, 2007

A Minneapolis Park Police Officer critically injured last week when he was hit by a squad car during a chase died at noon on Friday.

Mark Bedard, 34, was a 12-year veteran of the park police.

Bedard’s widow, Andrea Bedard, said, “Mark was a great husband and wonderful father to our son, Nicholas.”

On Nov. 1, Bedard and several other park officers and Minneapolis Police Officers responded to a report of shots fired in north Minneapolis.  Bedard was chasing a suspect on foot into an alley when he was struck by a Minneapolis Police squad car which was also pursuing the suspect.

Read more at WCCO

Parkwatch would like to offer its condolences to the family, friends and coworkers of Officer Bedard.

Other Links

Star Tribune

Problems with DeLaSalle stadium agreement

Parks notebook originally published in the The Southwest Journal on November 5, 2007

By Mary O’Regan

DeLaSalle High School still faces several hurdles before construction can begin on its proposed athletic field on Nicollet Island.

The Park Board currently owns about half of the land where the stadium will go, having purchased it with a grant from state bond proceeds in the 1980s. Roughly two years ago, the MPRB entered into a Reciprocal-Use Agreement (RUA) with the school that must abide by state statutes because state money is involved. According to the state’s Assistant Commissioner of
Finance Peter Sausen, the current agreement doesn’t meet the necessary requirements.

“They have to make changes to the reciprocal use agreement and come back to us which they have not done yet,” Sausen said.

Most of the necessary changes are over wording, said Sigglekow. He added that the Park Board didn’t even realize that the state’s Finance Department needed to sign off on the RUA because the bonds were issued so long ago. But a memo from MPRB Director of Planning Judd Rietkerk to DeLaSalle Trustee John Derus from Jan. 13, 2005 indicates that they knew the state would “have issues” with the deal.

“We don’t necessarily agree that they do have a purview over it,” Siggelkow said, “but they feel it’s important, so we will conform to that.”

MPRB staff plans to fix the RUA, get the finance commissioner’s approval, and then bring it before the Park Board commissioners on Nov. 28.

In addition to working out issues with the RUA, the landowners need to decide whether the field will have artificial or natural turf. When City Council approved the deal in August, they asked for natural grass on the field, but when the Park Board approved the project in September, they specified that it must have artificial turf. DeLaSalle has sided with the Park Board and hopes to resolve the matter with the city by this winter.

On top of the land issues, the school has to deal with several lawsuits against the project, including one from Nicollet Island residents. Under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, the developer has to show that there aren’t any feasible alternatives to building a field on historical land should their work cause destruction, said Lisa Hondros, one of the residents involved in the suit.

“There are lots of possibilities,” she said, naming Parade Stadium in Lowry Hill where the school’s baseball team currently plays, as an option. “The problem is that they have never looked at anything [else] seriously.”

Under direction from the Park Board, DeLaSalle is posting a construction bond while the lawsuits continue.

Commissioners rate priorities

Parks notebook originally published in the The Southwest Journal on November 5, 2007

By Mary O’Regan

During study sessions on Oct. 3 and 17, Park Board commissioners participated in an anonymous rating system to help MPRB staff prioritize items for the 2008 budget. As questions popped up on an overhead screen, the commissioners used electronic clickers to give their answers on a scale of one to five, often ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

The first half of the session dealt primarily with financial issues, such as fee implementation and where to move funding. During the second half, the board rated aspects of MPRB programs and services, with three commissioners missing. The following are examples of some of the results:

• Seven of nine commissioners were either lukewarm or supported increasing property taxes.

• Eight of nine commissions wanted to provide outdoor concerts that are fee-based and generate a profit to the board.

• All but one commissioner thought the Park Board should consider becoming an independent agency.

• All nine commissioners believed that the MPRB should get their LGA directly rather than getting a percentage from the city.

• All of the six commissioners who were present put medium to high priority on adapting the open hours of recreation centers to suit the needs of the community.

• Four of six commissioners gave closing recreation centers a low priority rating.

• Five commissioners felt that the Park Board should be a sustainable organization; one person voted neutral.

• Four of six commissioners want to reduce the number of ice-skating rinks in the city by six.

Park Board pushing for hike in 2008 budget

Parks notebook originally published in the The Southwest Journal on November 5, 2007

By Mary O’Regan

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) is disappointed with their proposed 2008 budget, according to a letter from Park Board President Jon Olson to Mayor R.T. Rybak. This fall, the board submitted their request for a 10.8 percent tax levy increase. The city responded by giving the board a 4 percent increase, which is about the same as last year.

MPRB General Manager Don Siggelkow says that the organization would be fine with a 4 percent increase, if they weren’t also facing a 2 percent decrease in Local Government Aid (LGA) and a 15 percent increase in health insurance costs. Factoring those in, the total increase will only end up being 2.5 percent.

The MPRB received $39,205,673 in property tax money in 2007. The rest of their budget consisted of $9,888,000 in LGA, $2,741,424 in rents, fines and fees, $982,105 in grants, and $495,000 in inter-department transfers.

In 2008, they can expect to get $40,942,461 in property taxes and $9,704,890 in LGA, with the rest of the funding sources staying about the same.

“The bottom line is that, given all that, our budget doesn’t fit within those constraints,” Siggelkow explained. “We’ll have to adjust it, but what that means is we’re going to cut services and employees.”

Residents can also expect fee increases,   he said. “When people come and ask why we’re doing this, we’re going to have to say, ‘Talk to the mayor.'”

Park Board commissioners will receive copies of the superintendent’s budget recommendations on Nov. 16 and hold a discussion about the recommendations at their Nov. 28 meeting.


Mark Bedard, a Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board police officer, was seriously injured during a chase on November 1st. He is in serious condition.

A fund has been established for him and his family. Contribution can be made payable to:

Officer Mark Bedard Family
City County Federal Credit Union
Attn: Alexis
913 – East Franklin Avenue
Minneapolis MN 55404

Please include your phone number on your check.


Hydroelectric power plant planned for neighborhood back on hold

BY MARY O’REGAN published 10-29-07 in the Downtown Journal

On Aug. 15, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) voted to table a proposal from Crown Hydro to build a hydroelectric plant that would use power from the St. Anthony Falls.

The power plant would be located 42 feet underground, with an intake structure similar to the existing design on Downtown’s riverfront near the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam.

Once inside the plant, the water would fall through a turbine, causing it to spin and send energy to a generator. After a few minutes, the water would be released back into the river through an outlet located just beyond the lock and dam. The process is silent, with no vibrations, but some Park Board commissioners are worried about the effect that the project could have on the Mississippi River and historic mill ruins.

The board’s decision to delay a vote on the project came on the heels of a presentation at the Aug. 15 meeting by Emmons & Olivier Resources (EOR), an environmental consulting firm hired by the MPRB to evaluate the feasibility and impact of the proposed plant.

To be viable, Crown Hydro’s underground turbine would need to produce 21,000 megawatts per hour per year of electricity. It automatically shuts off if the water flow is too low. According to the report, “Even if the MPRB is flexible on the amount of flow required over the St. Anthony Falls spillway, it would be difficult for Crown Hydro to meet the target [goal].”

The consultant concluded that, with the power plant in place, there would be fewer days with the falls at maximum strength and more days in which the flow is weak. According to the report, however, this wouldn’t noticeably change the waterfall’s appearance.

Park Board Commissioner Scott Vreeland, who represents the area where the plant would be located, disagrees. There would be a “tremendous aesthetic impact,” he said. On drier days, “I see a huge difference if there’s just a pulsating wash over the falls.”

Vreeland is also concerned about the potential historic impact that could result from digging in an area with archeological ruins. “Seven different ruins of enormous significance are under there, and they’d be digging through all that,” he said. “If that collapses, who’s holding the bag?”

Crown Hydro has yet to complete a full archeological study, which would be required once they sign a contract, but a summary of the historic impact in EOR’s report found that Mill Ruins Park and the falls “could potentially be adversely impacted by the proposed project.”

“Some of the key features to be potentially impacted include the 19th-century waterworks, gatehouse and tailrace – the heart of the waterpower area,” the writer concluded. “What will the short- and long-term effects be on the historic fabric of the district?”

According to a statement from Crown Hydro in response to the study, the power plant proposal would be required to comply with numerous standards, including the National Historic Preservation Act. “We are 98 percent underground and beneath the ruins,” said Rob Brown, Crown Hydro’s communications representative. “We would have to modify the plan if historical ruins got in the way.”

Not only could the hydroelectric plant affect the history of the site, Vreeland is also worried that the plan would be a bad investment for the Park Board.

“If we lease that land, then we have to return that money to the feds or state depending on who makes claims to those dollars for what amount. What sounds like a million bucks might ultimately be $200,000,” he said. And “if [Crown Hydro doesn’t] meet their projections, we don’t get paid a dime.”

The Park Board received a revamped lease agreement from Crown Hydro last year, and Superintendent Jon Gurban submitted it to an attorney for review. The lawyer called it “the most one-sided contract” he had ever reviewed, citing the 100-year time frame, the terms of land use, inadequate insurance and other items as unfair. “I would strongly advise not signing this lease,” he wrote. “One may question entering into a business agreement with someone who would draft such a lease.”

Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund is financing the project with a $5.1 million grant. Crown Hydro spent $1.2 million creating the turbine, though it currently doesn’t have anywhere to go.