Apr 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm
ST. CLOUD, Minn. - St. Cloud residents love their town -- and soon, they should have a community aquatic center to go with it.
Constructing the facility approved by St. Cloud voters back in 2004 was a key initiative for 2012 outlined Tuesday during St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis' annual State of the City Address.
"The state of the city of St. Cloud is strong with a solid foundation, built on a rich history of people determined to make this community a great place to live," Kleis told the crowd assembled for the address on the second floor of the renovated River's Edge Convention Center.
During his seventh address outlining the city's performance and plans going forward, Kleis singled out the long-gestating aquatic center plan as a project that will move forward this year.
"By the end of the summer, we want to do a request for qualificiations to firm up which partner will not only help us build this facility, but more importantly, who will operate this facility in the future," Kleis said.
Funds for the project will come from the half-cent sales tax increase approved by St. Cloud voters in 2004. About $10 million was earmarked for the project, though a 2009 feasibility study showed that to build a 108,000-square-foot indoor aquatic and community recreation center would cost $26.5 million.
Kleis said it was essential to engage an outside company to help build, then ultimately operate the center, at an estimated cost of nearly $500,000 a year.
"We don't have the ability to operate this...we need partners. We're going to...have a partner in place by the end of the summer, and by the end of the year, we'll have a financing plan also," Kleis said.
State legislators are currently discussing an extension of the sales tax, which would be necessary to go forward with construction.
Kleis also read through some of the results of the wide-ranging city survey conducted last February.
From those more than 7,400 completed and returned survey, Kleis said residents by and large were happy with the city, their neighborhoods and the sense of safety in their communities.
When asked what they like best about St. Cloud, Kleis said respondents answered, "The number 1...by far...is 'It has all I need.'"
But Kleis said as for the list of priorities residents have for the city, the list closely coincides with the one he and city leaders have been working on for a while.
"You've heard many times, I think each State of the City address I've had, I've talked about priorities that the city has, priorities that I feel very strongly about...it's always public safety, transportation-infrastructure and jobs...our survey results came back: our top three results, in this order: transportation, public safety and jobs," Kleis said.
Kleis said those issues would all be addressed as important items, particularly transportation. Kleis expected to have members of the previously-announced new St. Cloud transportation advisory committee seated and working in a matter of weeks.
The full results of the survey were expected to be fully tabulated and posted on the city's website by the end of the month, Kleis said.
"St. Cloud's rich in history. St. Cloud's present is full of opportunities. St. Cloud's future is what together we all create," Kleis said.