June 1, 2023 at 2:07 p.m.
Chisago City triathlon in final year
This year’s Chisago Lakes Triathlon will be the last one held at Paradise Park in Chisago City.
On recommendation of the park board and city staff, the Chisago City Council on May 23 voted unanimously to discontinue use of the city park for the triathlon 2024. The decision, described as “bittersweet,” was made now, so triathlon planners have time to find an alternative location for next year.
In a written recommendation to the council, City Administrator John Pechman stated, “The triathlon has brought many people to our community over (the) years and helped people discover what a great area this is.” He went on to say, however, that the intense use of the small park has taken a toll on grass and trees, and, “The park needs a rest.”
Pechman added that triathlon setup and events limit public use of the park for five days during the peak of the summer season, which Pechman described as “troublesome” pointing out that Paradise Park has the most popular beach in the area.
While the triathlon draws hundreds of people to the area, the resulting parking congestion actually limits access to many Chisago City businesses during the event, Pechman said.
The Chisago Lakes Triathlon, sponsored by Dutrirun, a tax-exempt foundation headquartered in Appleton, Wis., is one of 17 “Olympic Triathlons” held in the state of Minnesota. An Olympic triathlon involves a 0.93-mile swim, a 24.8-mile cycle, and a 6.2-mile run. This year’s Chisago Lakes Triathlon is the 17th, with the first event held in 2006 and no triathlon in 2020 due to Covid.
Annual audit approved
The council approved the final 2022 financial audit as presented by John Stachel of Abdo. The audit looked good, but Stachel did point out that the city’s general fund balance as a percentage of its total budget has steadily decreased over the past few years. As of Dec. 31, 2022, Chisago City’s outstanding debt totaled $4.2 million plus $696,000 in remaining interest payments. (No new debt was issued in 2022.)
Stachel also recommended the city look at its rates as operating costs and debt payments in the water fund are exceeding receipts. On the other hand, the sewer fund is doing well and has steadily increased its cash balance since 2019.
Based on key indicators, such as taxes, Chisago City is doing well when compared to other cities of its size. Chisago City’s tax rate and taxes per capita are lower than other Class 4 cities (population under 10,000) in Minnesota.
In other business, the council:
- after much pondering, agreed to expend up to $15,000 for patching its section of East Viking Boulevard to Polaris in Wyoming. Polaris has offered to pay the cost of overlaying that part of the road at an estimated cost of $140,000 to $150,000 in order to maintain facility access during an upcoming Viking Boulevard rebuild by the City of Wyoming. Chisago City’s concern is that the “patched” road may not hold up in the long term. However, timing requires that something be done quickly, before Wyoming begins replacement of a box culvert that will require closing the west entrance to the Polaris for 60 days.
Everyone acknowledged that the portion of East Viking Blvd. in question is in very poor condition. The City of Wyoming will pay for patching and overlaying its portion of the problematic road as part of its larger planned road project.
During talks with Wyoming and Polaris, Chisago City’s engineer had provided a cost estimate for a more substantial repair of the worst section of the East Viking Blvd. and then milling and overlaying the remainder. However, Administrator Pechman reported Wyoming said it had no plans for that type of more costly road project in that area in the next five to 10 years.
The dilemma prompted Polaris to offer to pay for a portion of the less durable patch and overlay in order to keep the east entrance open to its trucks and employees while the west entrance is closed. (Trucks normally are not allowed to use the east entrance due to the poor road conditions.)
- Council also authorized the city administrator to seek quotes for extension of water and sewer utilities to the proposed location of the new Lakes Area Public Safety Facility with work to be completed this summer. The earth work and pipe installation is estimated at $175,000 and was originally to have been shared with the City of Lindstrom. The utility project had been approved by the joint Lakes Area Police Commission last November and Chisago City had agreed to pay for half the work in January. Pechman explained that since that time the Lindstrom City council experienced “an almost complete turnover” and the new council “while not opposed to a new building, had expressed concern over cost and location of the facility” at a workshop Pechman attended May 10.
“The new reality is that construction of a facility will not happen any time soon,” Pechman reported, as the proposed joint project $3 million grant was not included in the state’s bonding bill this year.
Meanwhile the property, located north of the Chisago City’s public works building, currently has no access to sewer and water and two developers are also in need of sewer and water for properties near that area. Pechman suggested Chisago City consider paying the entire cost of the utility extension in order to get the work done this summer. The council voted to seek quotes for the work, saying “It’s not going to get any cheaper.”
- Council hired William Hooey to fill an open position in the public works department. The council then also voted to offer Hooey the opportunity to rent the Lokinda House at Ojiketa Park at a reduced rate if he provides “service and presence at the park during the week and on weekends.” The lease calls for 60-plus hours a month in the spring, summer and fall. The current nine-month contract is renewable for an additional two years.
Pechman explained that having someone affiliated with the city residing at the park “allows for better caretaking, event management and security,” and lowers the city’s insurance rates by $1,200 a year. Hooey has two years public works experience in Devils Lake, S.D., and his fiancé is from this area, Pechman said.
- The Parks Capital Fund will be used to purchase a 2016 Ford Explorer from the Lakes Area Police Department for use by the parks superintendent, and to purchase used hockey boards from an indoor arena in Eagan to replace old boards at Chuckie Lundquist Park. The boards, which have clear plexiglas, will be a big improvement, Pechman said.
- Council voted to deny a request by Sam Ashkar of Hometown Internet, for $25,000, to be matched by Chisago County American Rescue Plan Act funds, to provide high speed internet to 75 residential and commercial customers.
The request was a down-sized version of Hometown Internet’s original proposal for $100,000 of Chisago City’s ARPA funds (to be matched by the county), which would have helped provide improved internet to 300 customers. The council stood firm on its decision to commit its remaining ARPA funds to extend city water and sewer lines during the reconstruction of Highway 8 between Chisago City and Forest Lake, terming it a higher priority.
- Justin Kral’s permit to operate Captain Shawn’s Boat Rental on Aldrich Avenue was renewed for $300 for the months of June, July and August.