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$12.5M Aspen Park project up to city voters
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

October 02. 2013 9:40AM
For the first time since 1988, Brandon city voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of expanding a city amenity: Aspen Park.

At issue in the Oct. 29 special election is a $12.5 million general obligation bond that if approved, would more than double the size of Aspen Park. The city is proposing a 10 year-term bond.

The expansion project includes a full-sized baseball field, official Little League field, upgrades to a softball field utilized by high school-aged players, two multi-use softball/baseball diamonds, a combined concession stand-restrooms, a larger and more centrally-located playground, parking lot expansion and paving, improvements to existing diamonds (drainage, infield re-grading, outfield irrigation), paved walkways between fields, shade structures and improvements to the existing swimming pool. Of the $12.5 million, $2.5 million is earmarked for the pool.

A second entrance/exit into the park is also part of the expansion plan, but is not included in the bond. Two parcels of land – 11 acres, which the city purchased in December, and 30-plus acres, currently in negotiations – also are not part of the $12.5 million bond vote.

The project will be explained at two scheduled meetings prior to the Oct. 29 vote.

Aspen Park taskforce chairman Al Kirkeby invites residents to attend one of two public meetings scheduled for this month. The Thursday, Oct. 10 meeting will be held in the Council Chambers at 308 Main Ave.; the second is Monday, Oct. 21 at Tailgator’s Sports Bar & Grill. Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m.

As of Sept. 26, the City of Brandon has 6,159 registered voters. The project needs 60 percent of the votes cast to move forward.
Project history
The plan to expand and improve Aspen Park was not initiated on a request by either the Brandon Valley Baseball or Brandon Youth Softball associations, according to Kirkeby and Barb Fish, the council liaison to the city park board. The proposed plan, they say, was prompted by comments from local business owners.

“We were having a park board meeting when a couple of people from the business community came to talk about the condition of the park,” Kirkeby said. The business owners said they had noticed lower attendance at various tournaments, which also lessened patronage at their businesses. They also cited negative comments from customers regarding the park’s facilities.

Land availability, safety concerns – the need for a second entrance/exit into the park and spacing between diamonds – and player capacity for both the softball and baseball leagues also moved the proposed plan along.

“We have a unique opportunity right now because of some land,” Fish said. “It’s the perfect storm, so to speak.”

This past season, the BVBA registered 600 players; the softball association had another 500 kids on the fields.

To address concerns about the park, a task force was assigned to identify those needs and improvements. The group initially came up with $17.6 million plan, then trimmed it down by more than $5 million to the $12.5 million figure.
Pool improvements
The $2.5 million directed to the pool would eliminate the existing baby pool, which would be replaced with a zero-depth entrance pool and would located in better proximity to the main pool. The main pool would gain aquatic play elements such as a climbing wall and basketball hoops. These measures would increase capacity from 324 to 479.

Also included in the pool improvements is a new family changing area and mechanical upgrades.

The city’s existing pool didn’t come easily. According to a Sept. 28, 1988 Challenger report, after voters rejected a bond issue three times – twice in 1978 and once in 1984 – they agreed to implement a one-cent city sales tax, and revenues collected from that were then earmarked for the pool.

Brandon’s population in 1984 was 3,545, and today hovers around 9,000.
How much will it cost me?
To determine how the $12.5 million bond would impact property taxes, take the assessed value of your home/business and multiply it by .885%, which gives you your taxable valuation. That number is then multiplied by .002982, and that total is the amount the project would increase property taxes per year.

For instance, a home assessed at $100,000 would have $88,500 in taxable valuation, which equates to a $263.91 per year increase or more precisely, $21.99 per month.

Kirkeby said that equates to about a 16 percent total property tax increase.

“The city does not have a budget to do anything like on its own,” Fish said, noting the city’s planned $4 million general revenue budget for 2014, of which $228,000 is earmarked for park improvements.
Additional funding
In August, the Brandon Valley Baseball and Brandon Youth Softball associations committed $110,000 combined from their general operation budgets to the project.

Leadership from both organizations said if the bond issue is approved, they would pursue grant opportunities and initiate fundraising endeavors. Any additional funds gained through grants or fundraising could shorten the term of the bond or reduce the per year increase, as well as increased population.

“The Aspen Park committee identified a lot of elements for naming rights,” Kirkeby said.
If bond vote passes
If city voters approve the $12.5 million bond, construction would start next spring.
Kirkeby said the entire project would be done in phases and could potentially take up to four years to completion.

In the first phase, Kirkeby said the full-sized baseball field would be constructed and seeded, but likely wouldn’t be ready for play until the spring of 2016. The second phase would include expanding the parking lot, removing diamonds A and D, and construction of a third field.

“It would probably be a minimum of four years to get everything done but we would start seeing benefits in two years,” he said.
• Special Election: Tuesday, Oct. 29 – Polls open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. – Council Chambers, 308 Main Ave.

• At issue: $12.5 million park improvement project funded by 10-year term general obligation bond

• Public meetings: Thursday, Oct. 10 – 7 p.m. – Council Chambers, 308 Main Ave., and Monday, Oct. 21 – 7 p.m. – Tailgator’s, 1013 N. Splitrock Blvd.

• Voter registration: Voter registration for the Oct. 29 special election closes Tuesday, Oct. 15. Call the county auditor’s office at 367-4420 to find out if you are a registered voter. Voter registration may be completed at the county auditor’s office, city hall, secretary of state’s office, and locations that provide driver’s licenses, food stamps, TANF, WIC, military recruitment and assistance to the disabled as provided by the Department of Human Services.
(Payable 2013 Tax Levy for Owner Occupied Non-Ag Property in Minnehaha County)

City Rate % of Total Tax

Crooks 3.059 19.2%

Baltic 3.590 19.4%

Harrisburg 3.907 21.2%

Brandon 4.117 22.4%

Sherman 4.396 23.6%

Sioux Falls 4.950 29.1%

Dell Rapids 5.567 28.0%

Valley Springs 5.737 28.6%

Garretson 5.742 28.8%

Humboldt 6.062 28.9%

Colton 6.572 33.8%

Hartford 7.274 32.8%

Tea 7.706 34.1%

Lennox 12.172 47.4%

Brandon city voters will be asked to go to the polls Oct. 29 to decide the fate of a $12.5 million expansion/improvement project at Aspen Park. Two public meetings are scheduled this month. The first is Oct. 10 and the second is Oct. 21. Drawing courtesy of Stockwell Engineers

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