Monthly Archives: August 2010

MORE ON RIVERFRONT PARK PRIVATIZATION

The following commentary by Shawne FitzGerald, questioning the economics of the MPRB’s contracts with the Mississippi riverboats, was posted August 30, 2010 on the Minneapolis On-line Issues List:

MORE ON RIVERFRONT PARK PRIVATIZATION

Wednesday’s Park Board meeting has two items related to privatization at Central Riverfront Regional Park, Boom Island and B F Nelson sections. Both on the Regular Meeting agenda.

The Park Board would cancel the Skipperliner contract to operate Mississippi riverboats from MPRB properties and grant a new contract to Paradise Lady. It is a no-bid exclusive use contract written for the remainder of 2010 (except for the reference that this is an “initial” agreement). See

http://minneapolisparks.org/documents/agendas/2010-09-01/8-1-042REG.pdf

Park Watch did some research years ago that suggested that the Skipperliner boat contract was losing money (so taxpayers were subsidizing riverboat customers). The I-35W bridge collapse intervened, Skipperliner and the MPRB became involved in a dispute, and Skipperliner, primarily a boat builder, went bankrupt. Time for a fresh look.

Has the Mississippi riverboat contract made money or cost money? Who are the people served by this amenity? Minneapolis residents? Park Board Commissioners are urged to find answers to these questions before passing a resolution that says it is in the “public interest” to operate excursion and private/corporate cruise boats off Boom Island.

A plea for transparency….Park Board business ventures should each have pro forma business statements, a balance sheet and an income statement, so that decision makers and the general public can gauge the value of the privatization. I may be wrong but I thought the MPRB invested $100,000+ in docks, hook-ups, and improvements for Skipperliner – were these costs ever recovered? Where is the balance sheet?

The capital question is timely for the Commissioners are also being asked to approve Boom Island engineeering plans that may subsidize the Mississippi riverboat operator:

-Improve excursion boat boat landing $154,500
-Dredging $101,500

See last page:
http://minneapolisparks.org/documents/agendas/2010-09-01/2-4-040REG.pdf

The riverboat contract is only $35,000 a year (if and when collected) and that is gross revenue. It doesn’t include the park maintenance, utilities, police, etc. Is there a profit on this or are Minneapolis taxpayers subsidizing those boat rides?

Shawne FitzGerald
Powderhorn Park

September 1 Park Board Meeting

HEADS-UP FOR THE SEPTEMBER 1, 2010 PARK BOARD MEETING

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME

Some highlights of the meetings that will be voted on are BF Nelson/Boom Island, SkipperLiner/Paradise Lady, Wirth House and the selected vendor for the 2011 Lake Harriet Concessions.

The following is the link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Wednesday, September 1:
http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=37&calid=666

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The Park Board’s website is http://www.minneapolisparks.org.

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

HEADS-UP FOR THE SEPTEMBER 1 PARK BOARD MEETING

HEADS-UP FOR THE SEPTEMBER 1, 2010 PARK BOARD MEETING

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME

Some highlights of the meetings that will be voted on are BF Nelson/Boom Island, SkipperLiner/Paradise Lady, Wirth House and the selected vendor for the 2011 Lake Harriet Concessions.

The following is the link to the complete agenda, with staff reports, for the MPRB Board of Commissioners’ meeting of Wednesday, September 1:
http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=37&calid=666

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The Park Board’s website is http://www.minneapolisparks.org.

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

A PARK WATCH COMMENTARY: BRIDGE DEBRIS TO BE MOVED

A PARK WATCH COMMENTARY: BRIDGE DEBRIS TO BE MOVED

The following three items are about the removing of the I-35W wreckage from Bohemian Flats. What is interesting about the three articles is the inconsistencies (highlighted in red) regarding the lost revenues. What is even more interesting is the fact that no documentation for the losses has come before the Park Board; and no documentation has been provided in response to Park Watch’s Data Requests for the excursion boats’ “outstanding payment issues.”

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The following Fox 9 item was reported on August 20, 2010:

35W BRIDGE WRECKAGE CAN BE MOVED FROM BOHEMIAN FLATS

MINNEAPOLIS – The state now has permission to move the steel wreckage from the collapsed Interstate 35W Bridge out of the Bohemian Flats park along the Mississippi River.

The twisted steel girders have been stored at the park for more than a year. They couldn’t be moved because they were still considered evidence in lawsuits against the companies involved with the bridge’s design, inspections and repairs.

But park officials complained that the wreckage was costing them about $60,000 in lost revenue each year. The park is a popular site for canoe launches.

A Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesman tells the Minneapolis Star Tribune a court has granted the state permission to cut the wreckage into moveable pieces and store it in Afton.

The 35W bridge collapsed three years ago, killing 13 people.
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The following story was reported by WCCO-TV’s Maya Nishikawa on August 20, 2010.

THREE YEARS AFTER COLLAPSE, BRIDGE DEBRIS TO BE MOVED

The Minnesota Department of Transportation finally has the green light to start removing the last of the debris from the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. For almost three years, the metal pieces have been in Bohemian Flats Park along the river.

All the steel there once spanned the two piers of the I-35W Bridge. It has taken a long time to move the bridge debris because it’s still considered evidence for continuing litigation. The steel will be saved and stored, but soon it will be out of out of a valuable public park and the public view.

There’s also relief for those see the debris and remember tragedy. For Andy Gannon, seeing the twisted metal brings back the night on the I-35W Bridge he never thought he would survive.

“The fact that it sits close by to where it actually fell, you can’t go by anywhere near there without seeing it and kind of bringing it back to what happened,” he said.

From Gannon’s perspective, knowing the debris is finally going to be taken away brings the last bit of closure.

“It’s never over, but the fact that it’s gone will take a little of the memory away from it,” he said.

For almost three years, MnDOT has not been able to move the metal for fear of being sued.

“We’re being kind of at a place where we can’t move it because to move it we needed to cut it, and if we cut it we’re damaging evidence, and if we damage evidence we’re liable for damaging that evidence,” said Kevin Gutknecht, Communications Director for MnDOT.

Since all parties involved the lawsuits came to an agreement, the debris can go into MnDOT’s storage in Afton. The plan is to cut the pieces and move them with flatbed trucks. The removal means the prime parkland will be open again.

Scott Vreeland is a commissioner for the Minneapolis Park Board. He’s anxious to open the gates and let people enjoy the park again.

“This really took everyone working together to stipulate that even though there’s unfinished things that still need to go through a legal process, that they said, ‘OK, it’s time, we can move these bridge pieces and have this open for the park,” commented Vreeland.

Minneapolis Parks and Recreation lost thousands of dollars in revenue each year Bohemian Flats was closed.

Now, there are plans to begin improving the park, which is something that’s been on hold for the past three years.

It may be a week or two before it is announced when the removal will begin. Moving the pieces is expected to take two to three weeks.

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The following article by Alex Ebert and Paul Walsh was published in the Star Tribune on August 19, 2010:

I-35W BRIDGE DEBRIS TO BE MOVED

The twisted steel from the collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge will soon be moved from the riverside park that has been largely fenced off and closed during the investigation and reconstruction of the failed structure.

The state now has permission to cut the wreckage into movable pieces and store it in Afton, said Kevin Gutknecht, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“It’s great news,” said Scott Vreeland, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board commissioner. The board allowed MnDOT to store the material on park land temporarily. But the board sued the Transportation Department in 2009 because it was missing out on thousands of dollars in revenue annually while the park land was closed off.

The girders have rested on land known as the Bohemian Flats along the Mississippi River’s west bank since shortly after the collapse in August 2007.

Originally the court said MnDOT could move the wreckage, but it wasn’t willing to order legal protection from further lawsuits if any of the girders — still considered evidence — were damaged in the process.

Now an agreement between all parties says that the state will be protected legally from any damage claims. MnDOT is working out a plan for how to haul the hunks of steel, Gutknecht said. The process will take a “couple of weeks,” he added. It probably will involve cutting some pieces to make them easier to transport.

Vreeland said moving the debris is what’s best for the victims and for the Park Board.
“This [debris] is just a sad reminder of a terrible tragedy,” he said. “Folks want to know why it’s been there so long and will it ever go away,” he said. “I think it would be advantageous to get rid of the wreckage and honor people in a way that isn’t so visually disturbing.”

Keeping the mangled steel on the 7-acre park parcel has cost the park system annual revenue of about $16,000 from paid parking, and another $20,000 annually that a tour boat company would have paid to operate from there.

The park system has been awarded federal grants totaling $470,000 to erect a picnic shelter and restroom at the site.

Jim Schwebel, an attorney who represents bridge collapse victims, said that there has been a “waxing, declining need” to keep the steel on the flats.

“Obviously a lot of people got tired of looking at it for so long,” he said.

PARK BOARD ORGANIZING L R T ADVISORY GROUP

The following article by Jake Weyer was published in the August 23, 2010 issue of the Southwest Journal:

PARK BOARD ORGANIZING LRT ADVISORY GROUP

Adding another facet to the ongoing Southwest light rail discussion, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board voted last month to organize a citizens advisory committee (CAC) to mitigate the impact of the route on parkland.

Park Board commissioners, City Council members, neighborhood associations, Mayor R.T. Rybak and County Commissioner Gail Dorfman will appoint the 17-member CAC. The group will consider historical, cultural, visual, social, and safety issues associated with the 14-mile Southwest Light Rail Transit line (LRT).

The route will start Downtown, travel along the Kenilworth trail between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, then stretch through St. Louis Park, Hopkins and Minnetonka, ending in Eden Prairie. Along the way, it will intersect or run adjacent to Bryn Mawr Meadows, Park Siding an d parkland around Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun.

“So we have a very vested interest along with all of our park users when it comes to all the mitigation issues that might need to be addressed on our behalf,” said Park Board Commissioner Anita Tabb (District 4), who is leading the CAC formation. “So what we really want to try to do is ask the community members who use those specific parkland areas to help us advocate on behalf of the parks and the parkland to help us determine recommendations on what type of mitigation we should be looking for.”

The Federal Transit Administration is reviewing a draft environmental impact statement for the project. A 45-day public comment period will follow the review, expected to wrap up this fall. The CAC has to submit its findings and recommendations by the end of the comment period, so Tabb is hoping to have the group finalized in September.

It’s a tight deadline, she said, but the Metropolitan Council didn’t choose the route until last spring and the Park Board couldn’t organize a CAC without knowing what parkland would be affected. The Southwest LRT project has already had a broader CAC in place for several years, but Tabb said the Park Board’s group serves a much narrower purpose.

“We’re not trying to have an influence on where the line goes,” Tabb said. “I don’t think that’s our role. “What our role really is, is once we understand where the line is supposed to go, to advocate on behalf of the park users and the parkland in that particular area.”

By mid-August, many CAC members were already appointed, but the Park Board was still seeking applications. At-Large Commissioner Bob Fine said finding interested citizens has not been difficult.

“I think there’s a lot of people out there who are very interested overall about LRT, but also about how it affects parkland and we need to be proactive and think about how it’s going to affect parkland,” he said.

One eager CAC member is Jeanette Colby, who will represent the Kenwood Isles Area Association. Colby said she expects the rail line to have a significant impact on parkland, including bike trails, the Grand Rounds, the lakes, Kenilworth Trail and Cedar Lake Park.

“I think what really needs to be explored is what can be done to retain the quality of the experience for park users,” she said.

She said she’s also interested in making sure Cedar Lake Park is preserved, especially since citizens invested thousands of hours to develop and maintain it during the past couple decades.

The Park Board expects the new CAC to meet four to six times from September to mid-November. The schedule could become shorter if the environmental impact statement is released sooner. Meetings are tentatively scheduled for Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Park Board headquarters, 2117 W. River Road.

Anyone interested in applying for a spot on the CAC can find an application at http://www.minneapolisparks.org or call Alex Zachary at 230-6470.

Park Board August 18, 2010 Meeting

HEADS-UP FOR THE AUGUST 18, 2010 PARK BOARD MEETING

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME

The complete agenda, with staff reports, is at http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=37&calid=653

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at the web site.

The Park Board’s website is http://www.minneapolisparks.org.

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

HEADS-UP FOR THE AUGUST 18 PARK BOARD MEETING

HEADS-UP FOR THE AUGUST 18, 2010 PARK BOARD MEETING

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME

The complete agenda, with staff reports, is at http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=37&calid=653

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The Park Board’s website is http://www.minneapolisparks.org.

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch

M P R B'S AUDITED FINANCIAL REPORT FOR 2009

The MPRB’s Audited Financial Report for 2009 was presented by the Office of the State Auditor at the August 4, 2010, Park Board meeting.  Here is the link to it and to the accompanying Management and Compliance Report:

http://www.minneapolisparks.org/documents/agendas/2010-08-04/8-1-020REG.pdf

http://www.osa.state.mn.us/reports/aud/2009/financialStatements/mplsparkandrecboardml_09_report.pdf

VENDORS LINE UP FOR LAKE HARRIET CONCESSIONS CONTRACT

The following article by Nick Halter appeared in the July 26, 2010 Southwest Journal:

VENDORS LINE UP FOR LAKE HARRIET CONCESSIONS CONTRACT

Eleven businesses submitted proposals to take over concessions at Lake Harriet beginning in 2011.

Proposals this year, which were due July 9, were more than double what the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board received when it first opened up the concessions to private bidders in 2001. The existing contract, held by Rodney White, will expire at the end of 2011.

“We’ve got some of the best restaurateurs in the metro area, or at least the City of Minneapolis — some real strong proposals, some real diverse proposals. But I think a fairly consistent theme is that they really looked hard at the recommendations of the (Lake Harriet Citizens Advisory Committee),” said Park Board General Manage Don Siggelkow.

Citing Minnesota Data Practices law, Siggelkow said he could only release the names of the individuals who made proposals, not the restaurants they own and operate or details of their proposal.

The eleven proposals came from Kim Bartmann; Larry D’Amico; Steve Brown; Roger Lund and Greg Jost; Lowell Pickett; Doug Flicker and Jim Andrus; Rajee Aryal; Supen Harisson; Jon Blood; ZHC and White.

That lists includes, among others, representatives of D’Amico restaurants, Bryant Lake Bowl and Barbette, Piccolo, Sawatdee and Sea Salt Eatery.

Siggelkow said a committee of Park Board staff and community representatives will interview those with proposals during the week of Aug. 9. They will be evaluated based on a formula laid out by the Lake Harriet Citizens Advisory Committee.

That group laid out several recommendations, including a desire for expanded food options while keeping ice cream and popcorn, sustainable practices and affordable prices. It also asked that the new vendor remodel the interior of the concessions stand.

The eleven proposals will be narrowed down to two or three, Siggelkow said, and then details of those remaining proposals will be made public.

The committee will then make a recommendation to the Park Board, so that the board can make a decision in mid-September. The new vendor will be serving by next April.

Park Board August 4, 2010 meeting

HEADS-UP FOR THE AUGUST 4, 2010 PARK BOARD MEETING

5:00 P.M. REGULAR BOARD MEETING. Committee meetings to follow. The meetings will be held in the boardroom at Park Board headquarters, 2117 West River Road, just north of Broadway Pizza.

5:30 P.M. OPEN TIME.

Some highlights of the meetings:

THE BOARD WILL BE VOTING on approving design services related to the Master Plan and environmental assessment of Boom Island/BF Nelson. (See staff report)

THE BOARD WILL BE VOTING on approving the West River Parkway Plank Road reconstruction. (See staff report)

THERE WILL BE A PRESENTATION of the 2009 Financial Audit results by Rick Pietrick from the Office of the State Auditor. (See staff report)

THE BOARD WILL BE VOTING on approving the 2011 – 2013 Strategic Direction of the MPRB. (See staff report)

THERE WILL BE A STUDY/REPORT by staff on Park Board Management of Parkways.

The complete agenda, with staff reports, is at
http://www.minneapolisparks.org/default.asp?PageID=37&calid=661

MPRB meetings are broadcast live from 5-9 p.m. on the City of Minneapolis Government Meeting Channel 79 on Comcast cable and online at www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/webcasts.

The regular meetings are rebroadcast on Channel 79 at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Webcasts for the recent two months are posted two to five business days after the meeting and are available for viewing under “Webcast Archives” at the web site.

The Park Board’s website is http://www.minneapolisparks.org.

Arlene Fried, Co-founder of Park Watch