ST. JOSEPH -- A pair of projects in St. Joseph have been recommended for state bonding money by Governor Tim Walz.

The proposal calls for $4 million for the Jacob Wetterling Recreation Center. $300,000 has been earmarked for future regional park East Park.

If approved, the grant would cover about a quarter of the funds needed to make the long-awaited Jacob Wetterling Recreation Center a reality.

"It would definitely be an uphill battle without (the bonding money),” says City Administrator Kris Ambuehl. “The longer this goes on, the higher the costs get. Materials go up. Building expenses go up. We want to get moving on this and get it built.”

Ambuehl says a handful of donations from community members have been "tentatively" committed to the center, and the city will contribute half-cent sales tax dollars. A critical step in the process is launching a capital campaign – one they are close to taking "as soon as possible," according to Ambuehl. The city council, in collaboration with a 12-member recreation center advisory committee, is in the process of selecting an outside agency to help with campaign strategy.

Ambuehl says they’re taking their time to make sure they partner with the right agency.

“There are groups with more experience specifically in raising funds for community centers,” Ambuehl explains. “We want to make sure we’re with the right team as we move forward.”

The 40,000 sq. ft. Jacob Wetterling Recreation Center design plan utilizes the former Kennedy Elementary building. When completed, the center will include three full-sized courts for basketball, volleyball and pickleball, an elevated track, a climbing wall, locker rooms and a series of “multi-generational spaces,” according to city documents.

“We want (the recreation center) to target all age groups,” Ambuehl says. “We want space for everyone, kids to senior citizens.”

While the recreation center was somewhat expected to land on Governor Walz’s bonding recommendations list, East Park wasn’t.

“We were very hopeful it would end up on that list,” Ambuehl laughs.

The grant would cover half of the expected $600,000 to complete East Park, a 95-acre space located next to the Sauk River. The funds will help cover the costs of a boat landing, walking trails, a parking lot and restrooms.

Ambuehl says parts of the park project are already underway.

“We’ve planted a huge assortment of hardwood trees out there,” Ambuehl says. “ Our Public Works department has been working very hard on that.”

Ambuehl says, if all goes as expected with hiring contractors, East Park could be completed by the end of the year.

The city expects to hear a final decision from the state on both projects by the end of February or early March.



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