Supporters of the proposed Wahpeton Recreation Center vowed they would not give up on the idea. Three months after the project appeared to be halted by election results, there’s interest in a new attempt that would be slower-moving and possibly easier to support.
While no action was taken at a Monday, Jan. 10 meeting of the Wahpeton Finance and Personnel Committee, there was discussion on everything from possible feasibility and economic impact studies, having guaranteed private funds before a public vote to the idea of the city now leading the project. As of Monday, the center is not expected to be on the ballot for the next city elections in June.
Ordinance No. 1030, to fund the center’s construction, maintenance and operations with a .75 percent increase in Wahpeton’s local sales and use tax, failed with voters last October. The ordinance received 558 no votes and 464 yes votes. At the time of the election, the center project had an estimated cost of $20 million.
“I think there needs to be some commitment of private financing prior to (public) engagement, as far as funding goes,” Councilman at large Lane Wateland, the council finance committee chairman, said. “There’s definitely the interest and the need out there.”
While Wateland indicated his approval of an eventually agreeable project, he also said too much information was presented in too short a time prior to the October 2021 election. The information glut sentiment was shared by 2nd Ward Councilman Jason Goltz.
“Last time there was a scramble to get this on the ballot. By setting a June 14 (goal, as initially suggested by Pace Fundraising, who would potentially handle the study), it’s the same story all over again. It’s scrambling to get it on a ballot. As the saying goes, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right,” Goltz said.
Goltz called for determining what type of a facility, if any, is appropriate for the community, followed by having a specific, unchangeable design. After that, the timeline would be based on conditions, not dates.
“We can have another special election if it comes to it,” Goltz said. “But if everything is done properly, with a backwards plan and (setting) your conditions, if it goes (to a vote), it would probably be more successful. The first step is determining is if it’s appropriate for a community of our size and that question was never answered.”
Amanda Miller Fisher, Stacia Pauly Henningsen and Zach Hatting, members of the first Wahpeton Recreation Center Committee, attended the finance committee meeting. Fisher addressed the feeling that not enough research was conducted, citing a survey conducted in March 2021. More than 1,500 people took the survey, Daily News previously reported.
“We took that to heart and that’s what led to the design. That was truly what the community wants,” Fisher said.
The center has been proposed to be built in the Homestead Addition housing and commercial development, which would be built in northwest Wahpeton along the 210 Bypass.
Wateland attended the meeting remotely. Councilman at large Brett Lambrecht was absent. In addition to the finance committee members, 4th Ward Councilman Dr. David Woods II and Councilman at large Kelly McNary attended the meeting.
The center’s possible future is expected to remain on council subcommittee agendas. The next Wahpeton council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 10 at City Hall.