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Councils Send Parties Back to the Drawing Board with St. Michael-Albertville Ice Arena Expansion

The two city boards agreed financial support from the school district is unlikely when it comes to funding an arena expansion, and that the hockey association's numbers might be too high.

With questions still swirling about a proposed funding plan for an ice arena expansion, the Albertville and St. Michael city councils met together Monday night to discuss plans.

St. Michael mayor Jerry Zachman started the meeting off and directed his comments at the full audience.

“We know how all of you feel and what your dilemma is, but tonight the two councils are here to discuss with each other. We don’t need much input from hockey families tonight,” he said. 

With that, the councils jumped right onto task. While both councils agree with the idea of building a new ice arena in principle, both are also clear that the money isn’t in the budget, and raising taxes beyond what they already must isn’t very appealing either.

St. Michael City Council member Kevin Kasel explained; “This is a large capital expense and the impact for us (St. Michael), is half of what it is for Albertville residents. This isn’t an easy fix.”

St. Michael City Administrator Bob Derus followed that up by sharing that the city of St. Michael “may already be passing a 5 percent tax increase [in 2012] without this project.”

Albertville City Administrator Larry Kruse agreed, and explained that the city of Albertville is “already running a bare bones budget. There is no extra fat in essential services so anything we need for this will have to come through taxes.”

St. Michael Council Member Joe Marx shook his head, “Timing is off here. It’s easier to do these things during growth times. We just don’t have anything in the fund right now.”

The St. Michael-Albertville School District has been clear about their intentions and their own financial situation and “that has to be considered.” Kruse said.

Albertville City Council member John Vetsch has been adamant about the schools involvement all along and Monday night was no different. “The school has an operating budget of $38 million and can’t squeak out $15,000?”

Kasel corrected Vetsch’s thinking by reminding him that “school funds are allocated for certain funds and services. That’s a pretty flippant comment for someone who doesn’t understand school finance.”

Youth Hockey parent Jane Helgestad arose after waving her hand several times and while Zachman said “the meeting is for the councils to discuss,” she continued, “We have two really great high school teams with booster clubs that could be asked for money.”

That brought the conversation to a fundraising goal put in place by the Youth Hockey Association, a target it needs to have up front prior to moving forward on the project

Derus called it, “the $500,000 gorilla in the room." Larry Sorenson from the Albertville City Council explained “without a time frame or dollar amount, no target – it’s tough to fundraise.”

Youth Hockey president, Scott Berning was quick to point out that “$500,000 was my number. We’re open on it, but it was the number I suggested.”

Albertville Council Member Jillian Schommer asked about fundraising. “Can the entire community and both cities fundraise here?”

Kasel was quick to answer. “Youth Hockey needs to lead this effort,” and Derus followed up by reminding all “cities don’t fundraise. We have taxes.”

Even after initial payments are made, Kruse reminded the councils to “be prepared. If operations don’t go how they hope we need to be prepared to cover youth hockey’s portion of the payments.”

For the first five years of payments, youth hockey would be asked for a $40,000 contribution that could be paid simply by adding on an additional $100/payment/per hockey family charge. After the first five years though, “our organization is going to be fundraise-centric,” Berning said.

But Derus questioned any raise in tax dollars to pay for an expansion.

“The question here is, are our councils in support of raising taxes to do this when 80-90 percent of our residents are non-hockey families, and maybe won’t agree?”

The current proposals show that St. Michael residents would see a $11 tax and Albertville would see $22 for the ice arena only. The reason for the disparity? St. Michael has twice as many households. 

“We also need to consider how this will affect our businesses.” Marx said. “They pay a different tax rate to keep our residents taxes down. Some businesses are thriving, but some are not.”

The meeting closed with a consensus for both councils to run through the numbers again without school contribution, and also altering the youth hockey contributions.

“We need to run through all the questions and answers this time.” Albertville Council Member Dan Wagner said.

Sorenson agreed, “We want to do this right with all the scenarios laid out.”

The St. Michael City Council meets a 7 p.m.Tuesday, April 26. The Albertville City Council meets again on Monday, May 2 at 7 p.m. The next arena board meeting is Monday, May 9.

MG April 27, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Awesome for you that you can send them to private facilities. While you have that luxury, I witnessed around maybe 50 cub scouts gathering in the MSE cafeteria, don't know to many that willing to have that many at their home.I then walked down the hall to see a new class of about 15-20 kids going into the school gymnastics room (while another 15-20 were leaving the school). I guess you look at it as a handout to a special interest group where I look at it as a investment in a community and its kids. I guess its kind of like the Sr. Center (that was paid for by...............yep all of us).
librfun April 27, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Regardless of the facility, the issue remains as to who will have access and why is it being built. The library, community center, baseball fields, playgrounds, etc... have all been mentioned. Difference is any and everyone can go in, play at, read in...its not just for one very focused type activity, one which includes ice and no matter how you look at is, this is a tremendous expense to ask of a community knowing that it will support so few. We all know its not about a mere $15K...it will be much more than that. While it make look prestigious for us to have a big rink, a community must look at the bigger picture and get the biggest bang for the buck. I am much more concerned about resources for the schoosl which supports 100% (whether utilized or not) of the community.
Becky April 27, 2011 at 03:03 PM
I find it interesting that most of the complaints here are because of our community having to pay $11 or $22/year more in taxes. For those you you that READ The Patch, have you read this article? I think we are sitting pretty darn well in the city tax department and should have nothing to complain about. (quoted from an article by Amy Michenfelder: St. Michael Gets Solid Services From Tax Dollars ) Bob Durus: "When I list all of these services, residents can appreciate fully what a good value city taxes are in St. Michael. This is especially true when residents also learn that St. Michael actually has the lowest city tax rate in Wright County and is 10th from the lowest in Minnesota (for cities with populations of 5,000 to 25,000)." EVERYONE needs to read the facts and quit pointing fingers at one organization. The hockey association is trying to better our community by putting money back into our cities and not have it go to other communities, trying to better the program for our kids, and have a facility for the community to use as a whole. This past year there were over 400 kids in the STMA Youth Hockey program! That is amazing and wonderful. Shouldn't we be happy and want to continue the growth for our kids to have an activity/sport to do in the winter months here in STMA and not St. Cloud, Princeton, etc? I would gladly support another sport/activity if they were in need in this community since it is for the kids.
A Dad April 27, 2011 at 05:21 PM
Although its not surprising to hear all the "My kids dont play hockey, so why should I help out" attitude. I think thats a narrow minded way of thinking about this. If you look at other communities that have "larger" arenas, sure hockey is the biggest user of the facility. But all the other events the "building" could host and that would bring valuable money to this area is too much to pass up. So to all the people that are saying "I wont use it" maybe should think twice, cause I bet you would. Just might not be on a hockey night.
STMAMOM April 27, 2011 at 08:42 PM
Would it be a place where you could have a wedding reception or other large community events? This community is definitely in need of something like that.
Dennis April 27, 2011 at 09:15 PM
(quoted from an article by Amy Michenfelder: St. Michael Gets Solid Services From Tax Dollars ) Bob Durus: "When I list all of these services, residents can appreciate fully what a good value city taxes are in St. Michael. This is especially true when residents also learn that St. Michael actually has the lowest city tax rate in Wright County and is 10th from the lowest in Minnesota (for cities with populations of 5,000 to 25,000)." its all about choices.whats wrong with keeping them low.that's why most people moved out here more house for your money.when looking for a house if this was so important at the time you could have looked at Princeton and St Cloud.The city has had to make a lot of choices and just saying its only going to add $11 or $22 makes it sound like its no big deal.IT IS.it never goes away.whats wrong with being the lowest in taxes.that's more of a selling point for most people than an ice arena that has two sheets of ice.last time I looked at a MLS listing thy put on there amount of taxes not the number of ice areas or sheets of ice.When my taxes are cheaper I have more money in my pocket.which means I can go out for dinner more and support what I think is important.I plan on living in St Michael for a long time and this is my city to.I'm not trying to start any fights just looking from a different point of view.
Linda April 27, 2011 at 09:39 PM
No, it's not a surprise that all the negative opinions are from non-hockey parents...likewise all the positive comments are from hockey parents/alumni/alumni parents. But basically...at a time when neither city has surplus money..shouldn't we be CUTTING spending..not adding new ways to spend even more? When your bank account is empty do you spend more or quit spending????? Let's get real and face facts guys....save this idea for when there is surplus money in the kitty and not add any more taxes on everyone..regardless of the cause or the amount.
JA April 27, 2011 at 09:59 PM
The rink could be used for the community for expanded hours if the cities decided to open during the day for community use, which should be available and free to the citizens like the city run facilities. On that note, why isn't ice time free since it's a community owned building, used for the people of the commuity?(hockey is open for registration to all, and there are adult leagues)
A Dad April 27, 2011 at 10:10 PM
While I do agree, the timing isnt the best. I sit back and ask "When will be better to get a majority of residents on board?'...Sadly I am coming to the conclusion that no matter if we are in a bad economic time or if right now the economy was booming, some people will still have the "I wont use it, so I dont want to pay for it attitude"...And as I look at the "Patch" and read the comments about a new dog park...some think $5000 fence coming out of the park budget (that comes from taxpayers) is a waste of money. Now I personally dont have a dog, BUT I think its a great idea for those who do and for the city.But of course thats just me. And I know Ill get blown up by comparisons of a five grand fence vs. a 4 million arena. So save your fingers, it was a example of something I think tax money is being used in a positive way.
Bill April 28, 2011 at 12:29 AM
So, it will cost 100% of the citizens $11 or $22 depending on the city you live in. The new sheet of ice will be used by 10% of the population. So, if the 10% paid for the total cost it would be $110 or $220 each. That should not be too difficult to fundraise by selling some cookies door to door or selling brats at Coborns.
Becky April 28, 2011 at 01:57 AM
"Dennis": my husband and I moved to this community because we had heard what a great FAMILY community it is and how it has the greatest schools and facilities for the kids. At the time we were looking (8 years ago) we didn't have children so it wasn't "so important" for a second sheet of ice. Plus the growth of the STMA Youth Hockey has mainly been in the past few years, not the past 8-10. A whole lot of families that moved out here 8-10 years ago probably didn't have children of the age to utilize the current rink for hockey or just the open skate/Learn To Skate Programs. What was important to us is the community feeling that St. Michael gave us. Now, reading all these comments, including yours, it is making this community difficult. Just because our children play hockey doesn't make us bad people. As I stated before, if there was another organization that wanted to grow their program (soccer, baseball, basketball, etc) I would fully support them as well; even if my children didn't participate in them . BECAUSE THIS IS A FAMILY COMMUNITY! I also support facilities such as the library and senior center because it is a FAMILY COMMUNITY, but my family doesn't utilize the senior center.
librfun April 28, 2011 at 02:54 AM
I too moved here (10 years ago) because it is a family community. I believe that we are all entitled to our opinions, but it alarms me that someone would be sad because some people don't want to incur extra taxes for a hockey arena. It's part principle and at the same time it's not like we don't have one. The soccer group has been talking/working toward building an indoor soccer arena for some time, but have not proposed extra taxes (as far as I know). If they did (I and people didn't I would have to support their opinions. It may be 11/22 now, but given that the total expense is in the millions it won't stop there. If we didn't have any ice that would be a different conversation. It's all about timing, I'm concerned about my job, mortgage, food, etc...as are many others...it's just the way it is right now.
Dennis April 28, 2011 at 04:46 AM
Becky.BECAUSE THIS IS A FAMILY COMMUNITY! I should get to have an opinion on this.If you think that hockey is that important for your kids than you find a way to pay for it.maybe its time to have a movie made "Mighty ducks 6 after all its for the kids"a great title.Point being there lot of resources out there for getting the funding of an ice area.and if it means that much you will find a way.Just cant keep taxes cheap and have everything all the time.this is not a difficult community like you say.Its one that everyone should have an opinion about.apply for some of that stimulus money that's out there.I don't have any say in that money.but when it come to local taxes I can express my opinion.One more thing when I was younger I had an old car wasn't much to look at but it was better than not having any.Sometime you have to be happy with what you have and make the most of it.
Trudi Barthel April 28, 2011 at 03:56 PM
I have lived in St. Michael / Albertville for many years and back when I was in HS our boys had to practice in Buffalo and other places - 5:00 AM or 11:00 PM practices - which weren't ideal but we made do with what we had. This community has grown 10 fold and you would think that the community would embrace something like this! Something that would add value to the cities as well as benefit our youth - whether or not YOURS is one of those kids playing. The people who are saying they don't want to PAY because their kids will never PLAY - think about how absurd that is to say. So you will NEVER go watch a friend / neighbor / cousin / nephew - anyone play hockey in the arena (s). You will NEVER have a grandchild that might potentially play the sport. You will NEVER set foot in the arenas for anything in the future. It's very closed minded to think like that. When my family moved to St. Michael / Albertville in the early 80's - I NEVER thought this small farming community would ever be bigger than it was back then... think about what you say before you speak.
librfun April 28, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Many of us have thought about it...it's not about whether or not one's children will play...at this time we have an arena...not on the grand scale that some do, but we do have one. Its about adding taxes...thinking about the school levy that may be needed, thinking about the fact that some families are struggling to make ends meet, thinking about fighting off foreclosure, hoping they still have a job next month. Its thinking about how I explain to my children that we can't go to a movie because I need that money for gas, its thinking about the good ole days, when finances weren't an issue and we went up north without another thought. Its thinking about how we as individuals have an opinion that counts. In these times, in this economy, its thinking about choices. I support this community with my time and money. I think it is insulting to imply to anyone here that they don't if they don't support new ice. Really, think about it.
Wild1 April 28, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Some great thoughts on both sides of this issue! I'm hoping that STMAYHA has spent some time figuring out a plan B. What will you do if you don't get the funds you're looking for to build a 2nd sheet of ice?? Maybe ask the two cities to help maintain the two outdoor facilities better so they can be utilized more. The Albertville outdoor arena has probably the worst ice conditions I've ever seen. At one time someone suggested they figure out a short road between the indoor arena and the outdoor arena so that the Zamboni could help maintain the outdoor ice. Don't know why that never happened. The indoor arena while outdated and smelly it serves its purpose. The ice schedule is another matter. It is clear that a lot could be done to schedule ice better and more fairly. The Riverhawk teams have several "home ice" locations. Perhaps go to those communities and ask for more ice time which would lessen the burden on the STMA arena? Also, since the school has said they can't give STMAYHA funds for a 2nd sheet of ice...perhaps their high school teams would at least take the 6AM and late night time slots?? This would open up the prime time slots to the youth teams. Need to buy ice? How about Maple Grove or Rogers. Since you know your player count by Aug 1, buy early and buy it smart. While a 2nd sheet of ice IS needed and it would be great, I think its also critical that STMAYHA be prepared to tighten their collective belts when it comes to utilizing the ice they have now.
Mike Schoemer (Editor) April 28, 2011 at 08:22 PM
This has been corrected in the article.
JA May 03, 2011 at 12:14 AM
This is all fine, really expected nothing more from the people in this community. Rally together against something because an organized and passionate group in our community has a true need and voices their need and turn a blind eye to the poor planning and waste of city funds that goes unnoticed because nobody cares enough to vocalize it. Let's look at the development in St. Michael and Albertville vs. our surrounding cities for the last 10 years and grade our STMA decision makers..... ROGERS-New Schools including a high school of the right size with football/soccer stadium, baseball fields and arena attatched, almost 100% full retail spaces, Lowes, Target, Cub, multiple quality restraunts, a newer theater that is still open due to proper city planning, Cabellas, many new warehouses that are occupied, new hockey arena, great housing with cost diversity and doing a better job of holding value. MONTICELLO-New Schools, Home Depot, Target, Cub, nice community center, mostly full retail spaces, multiple quality restraunts, new arena, new theater still open, housing market similiar to STMA
Bill May 03, 2011 at 12:17 AM
JA, looks like you bought a home in the wrong city for your families needs. You should have done better research.
JA May 03, 2011 at 12:26 AM
STMA...new schools including an oversized, overbudget monster with no primary athletic facilities attatched but has a fieldhouse that they snuck in(wasn't voted on), NO ANCHOR STORES!!! NO I94 VISIBLE DEVELOPMENT!!! (EXCEPT THE OUTLET MALL THAT WAS BUILT WHERE THE TAX DOLLARS GO TO ELK RIVERSCHOOLS INSTEAD OF STMA) a beautiful movie theater that failed due to poor city planning(no supporting businesses), a lack of quality restraunts, many open retail spaces, too many failed businesses to remember, a struggling housing market, TWO CITY HALLS, A LIBRARY and SENIOR CENTER BUILT SEPERATELY INSTEAD OF COMBINING INTO A COMMUNITY CENTER... If, when the economy recovers, people are coming up I94 to find their new homes, I wonder which of these cities will catch their eye???
STMAMOM May 03, 2011 at 01:29 AM
JA Just to clarify a few things about Rogers... Rogers High School is well over capacity and already needs an addition after being open 8 years and has needed one for the past 3-4 years. Not to mention the class sizes at the high school are averaging 36-40 students. The booster clubs for hockey and baseball built there own fields and arena, there was no help from the district. Same goes for the entrance to the football stadium, if you look at the bricks on the front they are all sponsorship bricks with names of businesses and individuals that donated money.
librfun May 03, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Personally I don't mind there not Target or Walmart in my backyard. Besides the fact that there isn't really enough real estate near either freeway entrance/exit, STMA doesn't have a large enough population to support the megastores. They want their marketshare where they get the most bang for the buck...its not likely in STMA and across the freeway would be Otsego. As for the other businesses...we're a tough market. May look like a big town, but its not. The St. Michael theaters opened after the megatheaters of Rogers and Monticello. Rogers is now struggling and has lowered their prices...between Netflix and like web based media, theaters are in pinch to draw in the crowds that they have in the past.
JA May 03, 2011 at 02:06 AM
Bill, Your partially correct, I would not have purchased here knowing what I know now, but what does that say about the way theses cities have been run? Twelve years ago the research was showing STMA to be the most promising place for families and was positioned to be a great area for economic growth, too bad all the research in the world could not forsee the blundering decisions by our city planners and council members. What did the research show you 12 years ago? What do you think of our city's lack of economic growth compared to our neighboring cities? STMAMOM, good info, what are our avg. class sizes? The City of Rogers is the major source of funds for the arena, not sure about the other facilities. But as you point out, they got it done. No question the respective athletic associations should take some responsibility of the cost of facilities they use, but to what end? A million dollars? That's rediculous without giving the association a part of ownership. They will have paid 1/3 the cost up front and will have funded the rest with their user fees. When the arena is finally paid for(like the current arena is) 1/3 of the profits should then belong to the association.(or greatly reduce the ice bills to just cover operating cost with) If the arena was partially owned by the association it could be run primarily by the association members, greatly reducing labor costs, that would help the numbers that the cities are worried about.
Bill May 19, 2011 at 09:37 PM
On my way to Coborns today, I drove by the Arena and there was NO one there at 3:45 pm. It seems that the problem is not so much ice time, but rather CONVENIENT ice time. I don't think we should be spending money on conveniences when we can not even support the basics. Or has Michele Bachmann been lying to me about the dire state of our economy?
MG May 20, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Really Bill? 3:45pm? I'm sitting here at the rec center watching my kids baseball practice and there are open baseball and every one of the soccer fields is vacant at 7:30 pm on a beautiful evening...........but thank god we have all that to maintain. Funny thing, I happened to be at the Eden Prarie community center (not comparing STMA to EP) and they have 3 rinks and guess what, they found a way to hold non-skating events on a rink they had no ice in during the spring.........but I guess we STMA residents can't imagine that it can be used for anything but hockey.
A Dad May 20, 2011 at 03:04 PM
MG...well put
librfun May 20, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Is the STMA hockey center being used for non-skating events now?
Bill May 20, 2011 at 11:13 PM
MG-How about the hockey boosters hold some non-skating events to raise some funds? Instead the building sits empty. So, we are not fully utilizing the current arena. If it were even utilized to 50% of capacity it would be pretty easy to cover the cost of the second sheet with user fees. As far as the soccer fields, my guess is that they did not cost $5M all added together. Librfun - the arena was empty, which was not true for the city hall/library complex
MG May 20, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Ok spin it anyway you want, bottom line is there is a need and no matter what I say you will run it another. There is no facility that is used 24/7/365 including your library and or sr center . Every day from October thru mid March that rink is booked from 3:45 to 11:00pm and people are still sent to Buffal/Monti/Rogers/Princton/St Cloud. You really can't have non-skating events unless the ice is taken out and right now ice is being used for spring and soon to be summer hockey programs. When you have 2 sheets, 1 can have ice taken out and non-hockey events can be held. Bill and librfun you have you agendas to be hockey program bashers so go ahead and post some more garbage.
librfun May 21, 2011 at 01:33 AM
Not at all...just a different opinion,that's all.

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