Bluebird Park in the city of Isanti is about to receive a major face-lift.
During the Isanti City Council meeting June 1, by a vote of 3-2, with council members Paul Bergley and Jimmy Gordon voting against, the council approved a resolution to build a performance center in Bluebird Park at a cost of $298,884.
Parks, Recreation and Events Coordinator Alyssa Olson explained in April it was decided at the Committee of the Whole meeting to move forward with the building of a performance center in Bluebird Park.
The $298,884 total project costs breaks down as follows:
— Band shell kit, $159,628.
— Site work and structure fabrication, $74,500.
— Electrical services, $15,000.
— Inspection, grading and testing, $20,500.
— Park lighting, $25,956.
— Walk installation, $3,300.
Council Member Steve Lundeen spoke in favor of the project, particularly the addition of a handicap accessible sidewalk for access to the performance center.
“There has been a lot of talk about our parks being accessible for handicap, a lot on Facebook, and I think that’s a smart way of going,” Lundeen said.
Gordon said he didn’t want to see the city spending nearly $300,000 on a performance center.
“That’s kind of been my point with these kinds of projects is I’d like see us do things that are essential or possibly essential, instead of spending this kind of money on these sort of projects, splash pad and bathrooms, and that kind of thing included,” Gordon said.
Gordon said he’d like to see the city form a subcommittee for the performance center, made up of citizens who would raise half of the money toward the project, with the city matching dollar for dollar.
“So that we see that it’s actually something that is wanted and needed by the community because they’re paying for part of it and they’re voluntarily paying for it instead of just paying taxes for it,” Gordon said. “So that was my suggestion, and then I think that subcommittee, if the money is raised and the project moves forward, then that subcommittee can be in charge of making sure there’s use of the amphitheater, that there’s shows that are going on in there and there’s promotion of the activities going on there.”
Mayor Jeff Johnson said the council agreed with Gordon on forming a subcommittee, but the city would build the performance theater first, and then form the subcommittee who would help make sure the performance theater stays busy hosting different shows and events.
Gordon agreed with Bergley that the subcommittee would be run through the Parks, Recreation and Culture Board, but the city can’t get anyone to serve on the parks board. The Parks, Recreation and Culture Board currently has two open member seats, and one open seat for a student representative.
“If you form a subcommittee I don’t know if you’ll get any participation, but that’s my point, is how bad do the taxpayers really want this anyway,” Gordon said. “I know you’ve talked about moving street dances there, but I think the charm of a street dance is to have it on the street, to be a part of the downtown and promote your businesses there.”
Bergley agreed, indicating part of the original purpose of bringing street dances to the city was to have them downtown to help support the downtown businesses.
“You can have concerts in the park and you have a better public safety standpoint on it,” Johnson said. “I think police and fire would both say it would be easier, I hate to say corral our residents, but that’s what it would be essentially, is we’re corralling them in the park and easier to maintain the public safety in that and that was the original intent of the whole performance center.”
Council Member Dan Collison said besides the street dances, the performance center could be used for plays, weddings, acoustic sessions, open mic nights, kids dances, and more.
“There’s so much you can do with an amphitheater, but a subcommittee would be the way to go to keep those ideas flowing,” Collison said.
Olson said there are a number of organizations the city could partner with to keep the performance center filled, such as partnering with Community Education and senior groups.
“There are a lot things that we can put into use into that space that’s not just rental, but not just major public events, but ways that the schools can get some use out of it, the different activities that we are trying to expand into the city that they can be pushed into that park,” Olson said.
Gordon feels the performance center will not be used the way the council and city staff expect.
“More or less, I don’t think that it’s going to get used the way that you guys do, which is, that’s not a problem that we disagree on that,” Gordon said. “I don’t think that it’s something that we should be spending the money on. We can put it toward the liquor store project or we can put it through to more important infrastructure types of things that have to be done or need to be done.”
Bergley said he’s in favor of the project but wanted to see the city wait a year on it before it moves forward. Johnson and other council members pointed out that the project has been budgeted for this year.
“We’ve all talked about how COVID has hit a lot of people financially, and I think that if they see the city building a liquor store and building out in that park, I just think it should be delayed just a little bit, that’s all I’m saying,” Bergley said.