The consensus among members of the Blue Earth City Council seems to be that the expense and hassle of operating a campground in the city may be too much for the city to continue to handle.
At a budget work session Monday night, public works department supervisor Jamison Holland laid out a plan for necessary improvements to the current camping area located on the south side of the Faribault County Fairgrounds property that is owned by the city.
That proposal carried a $25,200 estimated price tag.
Currently the city has four camping sites with sewer, water and electric hookups, as well as six independent sites for camping units that do not require sewer, water or electric hookups.
Holland's new plan calls for nine spaces for units desiring hookups and six for those not needing services.
"The State Department of Health noted concerns about our facilities during their annual inspection," Holland says. "They gave us one more year to make corrections."
The concerns were over the water and sewer systems. Plus, the four spaces for camping units are too close together.
"We need 10 feet between our spaces for units with slide outs," Holland says. "Currently we have five feet."
One solution would be to simply eliminate two of those spaces, he says. But, his new plan is to build nine new sites in a semi-circle ring around where the current four are located, taking advantage of the trees and grass in the area.
But, the council thought the increase cost was too much.
"We should do just the two full service spots and the six tenting sites," Councilman Glenn Gaylord says. "We can't be spending $25,000 on something where we will never recoup the money."
Holland agreed that the camping area will never make any money for the city, and added that he was hesitant to continue the operation itself.
That is because there have been quite a few other incidents with the campground he says.
"We have had some social misbehavior incidents," he says. "Even some illegal activities. I believe we either need to clean it up and make it nice, or close it down."
Mayor Rob Hammond agreed.
"The police have been called out there a number of times this past year," he says. "There have been problems with drugs, vagrants and people with some mental illness issues."
Councilman Allen Aukes questioned whether it was really that much of a problem area.
"The last two years there have been considerable problems," Holland says, citing that they even had some picnic tables broken up and burned.
With Monday night being a work session and not a regular meeting, the council did not take any official vote on the matter.
Holland had several other proposals for the council as part of his 2012 budget for the public works department.
One dealt with purchasing and installing $69,000 in new playground equipment at Blue Earth's city parks.
Included in the proposal was $28,000 for equipment in Putnam Park, $9,000 for the 14th Street Ball Park, $14,000 for Third Ward Park and $18,000 for equipment at the fairgrounds.
When asked, Holland said he felt Putnam Park and the 14th Street Ball Park would be the highest priority.
"I would like to see better numbers," Councilman Gaylord said. "What is it that we need for sure."
Councilman John Huisman suggested not doing all of the purchasing in one year, but spreading it out over two to five years.
Holland said that there were recent complaints and a possible lawsuit over the old equipment, causing a close inspection of all the playgrounds in the city.
"We ended up removing much of the older equipment, a lot was in bad shape." he says. "So, we do have a need to replace it."
Holland added that the costs include having to put down a mulch material under the new equipment.
"We can't get by with pea rock any more," he says. "We either need a wood mulch or the new rubber stuff which is more expensive."