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BE Council divided on making the land swap

By Staff | Nov 4, 2012

A Blue Earth City Council work session on the 2013 budget last Monday heated up and not because of any budget items.

Also on the agenda was the possible land swap between the city and the Faribault County Fair board.

The idea of trading property that has the Green Giant statue and park and is owned by the fair board with property that includes the grandstand area owned by the city sparked a heated debate.

City Councilman Russ Erichsrud called the idea a “win-win” for the city and the fair.

Erichsrud says he feels it is important for the city and the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce to have ownership of the property called Giant Park.

“The grandstand is a liability to the city, but to the fair it is an asset,” he says. “And I think we are still looking at having a youth baseball field there.”

Councilman Glenn Gaylord, however, says he is dead set against the proposal.

“If we give up control of this property I don’t believe a diamond will ever be built there,” he says. “I can’t believe we would give up this property just so the fair can use it for five days. I’m not willing to do that.”

Gaylord repeated that the city had agreed to put the property back as a ballfield, if the go kart track ever quit operation.

“And 10 years from now, if the fair isn’t using it, we won’t own the land to do something with,” he added.

Fair board president Daryl Murray and Youth Baseball League president Brent Legred were also at the meeting.

Murray says the fair board needs the space in order to put on larger events in front of the grandstand and has explored the possibility of moving the grandstand to the east.

Legred says the space is ideal for a baseball field and he and Murray both agreed that it could be very possible to do both.

After debating whether a field would fit, the dimensions needed and whether a permanent or temporary fence would be used, the council threw the whole idea back at Murray and Legred.

“I think we need these two gentlemen (Murray and Legred) to look at this land and come back with a plan,” Councilman Rick Scholtes says.

Mayor Rob Hammond Jr. charged them to do just that, and to bring it back as soon as possible, because it would need to be studied before being voted on.

Gaylord questioned the need to do it before the end of the year, asking if it was because there would be a change in the council after Jan. 1.

Fair board member Sara Gack responded that the fair board is already trying to book entertainment for next summer’s fair and they need to know how much space they will have.

“I don’t want to rush this,” Gaylord says. “If we do this wrong it would be the biggest mistake we ever made.”

The financial impact of a ballfield also sparked a lively debate.

Erichsrud asked that dollar figures on the cost be included in a proposal.

“Remember, the city has no money budgeted for a ballfield,” Councilman John Gartzke pointed out. He also wondered who would own the ballfield, if the fair board owned the land. “Who takes care of the field, maintains it?”

Councilman John Huisman said it would be a good deal if the fair board maintained the field.