At the Montevideo City Council meeting on Aug. 5, the council considered whether to accept a $19,263 check from Jon Willand, of Minneapolis, for the purpose of adding specific improvements to Camp Release, such as a pair of benches, a fire grill, and a unisex vault toilet.
The council decided not to move forward with the proposal, a course of action also recommended by the park board. In response, Willand was at the Aug. 19 city council meeting to address the council.
A letter of response to Willand, from Steve Jones, city manager, summarizes the council's feelings on the matter.
“Both groups appreciate your offer, but with no formal city plan in place for Camp Release, and with no improvement requests noted in the recent park survey (and recently completed city and park comprehensive plans), the city council is reluctant to go forward with accepting your offer unless the funds are given to the city free and clear, and can be used as the city sees fit.
“The city would agree to accept the funds, and hold those funds in an account designated for Camp Release, but they do not want to expend funds at this time. They agree that much more work needs to be done, a plan needs to be formulated, and that we have partners (Minnesota Historical Society as an example) to coordinate with.
This is not a priority for the city at this time, and neither do they want staff time or resources used in this area at this time,” the letter reads.
Willand told the council that he didn't understand why they weren't interested in the project. He said the updates were simple, but that they could add a lot to the park.
“No additional staffing would be required,” he told the council. He said that someone could be hired to pump the septic system once a year, which he saw as the only big maintenance issue.
Council President Marv Garbe asked Willand who would pay for that service. Willand said he would cover the first year.
“And what about after that?” Garbe asked.
Garbe also explained that the council's concerns about maintenance were more on a da- to-day, or week-to-week issue. Since adding and updating restrooms at other parks in the city, staff have been busy on a weekly basis, keeping them clean and usable.
City staff spend time cleaning park bathrooms every day, sometimes simply due to the nature of what a bathroom is, and also because they are sometimes trashed.
“If people use bathrooms, they're going to get dirty,” said Jones.
Garbe also explained that Camp Release had been acquired by the city of Montevideo when Jim Curtiss was mayor, because they kept hearing complaints about the property's unsightliness. Once acquired, they were able to keep the property maintained and in presentable order, but that no plans had been made to go any further.
Page 2 of 2 - “The truth is that in the future, the council may be interested in ... some plan to update the site ... but there are parties we'd want to work with,” Jones said.
He listed the Chippewa County Historical Society, the Minnesota Historical Society and the Upper Sioux Community.
He told Willand that he could appreciate his vision, and his willingness to want to help out, but that he had put together a plan that was his vision, and not one worked on together with all the parties who should be involved.
Council Member Bryce Curtiss asked Willand if he would be willing to allow the city to keep the money he wanted to donate, and hold it in a seperate account, that could only be used for Camp Release, once future plans were able to be put in pace.
“If all of the money, and any interest were used for Camp Release ... that's okay with me,” Willand said.
Seeing that Willand was agreeable, the council decided to keep with the motion from Aug. 5, which does not approve moving forward with any plan, but agreeing to hold funds from Willand in an account designated for Camp Release.