by Maggie Stanwood

Contributing Writer

The Elk River City Council has approved using American Rescue Plan Act funds to put a $25,000 down payment for the purchase of a new Zamboni for the Furniture and Things Community Event Center.

The Zamboni would replace one of the two current machines, a 2008 model “nearing end of life,” according to council documents. Staff have replaced the hydraulic motor and the main hydraulic pump in the machine, which was scheduled to be replaced in 2023.

With production delays, staff requested approval of a down payment to purchase the machine now in order to receive the machine by mid-2023. A request like this is intended to be paid for from the Multipurpose Facility fund – however, due to lost revenues from facility construction and the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund balance is “well below” the cost of the machine, according to council documents. In total, the Zamboni would cost $133,000.

Several council members said it made sense to use ARPA funds for the Zamboni as the funds are intended to help businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic, and the Multipurpose Facility fund would have had money in it if the event center had been able to operate as normal during the pandemic.

“The moment the facility opened, we were in the middle of COVID, so it never got to find its true potential,” Council member Jennifer Wagner said. “It’s still getting there.” Wagner added that she wanted to have a larger discussion about the ARPA funds and what they should be used for.

Council member Matt Westgaard said he was hesitant to use ARPA funds, but said if the facility were a standalone entity not run by the city, it would have qualified.

“I don’t want to use ARPA funds only for city buildings and functions, … but if you look at the facility as a standalone entity and business, … I could get behind the request of saying, ‘Let’s use the ARPA funding to help support the replacement of this equipment,’” Westgaard said.

Dietz voted against using the funds for the facility.

“I get what you’re all saying, but I’m worried about perception, and I can already hear the citizens: ‘Yeah, you’re going to take care of your precious little building and you’re going to forget the rest of us,’” Dietz said. “My idea of the ARPA funds is they should benefit every citizen of Elk River. … If we start singling out things, I think we’re going to be in trouble. We’re going to be viewed as favoring certain groups over other groups.”

Dietz said he would rather take the $25,000 from the Great River fund. He also said he wondered where the money would come from when the city would have to pay for the rest of the Zamboni.

Westgaard said he agreed with Wagner that the council needed to have a larger discussion about a master plan for ARPA funding.

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