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Donors, city, back Levee redesign (04/03/2013)
By Chris Rogers

The Winona City Council voted to fund conceptual design work for Levee Park. The Levee Park Redevelopment Committee announced it has raised $10,000 from private donors towards the $15,000 proposal for design work by the University of Minnesota (U of M). The City Council agreed the city would pay the remaining $5,000. The Winona Parks and Recreation Department is set to contract with the architects and begin meetings this month.

Harland Knight and Phil Feiten gave $7,500 from a fund raised for Windom Park in the 1990s, and Bill Lindquist, Betsy Singer, Arlayne Fremling, and Jim and Ruth Erickson also donated toward the Levee Park redesign.

The $15,000 figure attached to the U of M proposal is a budget, not a bid, said one of the two landscape architects behind the proposal. The design work could end up over or under budget, and the exact details of what the architects will do has yet to be laid out; however, the basic framework has been plotted out. The architects will meet with all of the Levee Park stakeholders to gather input and garner support; lay out a conceptual design, not a blueprint; and develop a plan for implementation.

"That is where plans in the past have lacked," said Levee Park Redevelopment Committee Chair Frank Pomeroy of the "road map" for implementation the proposal promises. He and the committee are enthused about that aspect of the proposal, the success the U of M architects have had in reviving waterfronts around the state and the country, and the price. Committee members said proposals from corporate architects were likely to be more than three times as much.

The $5,000 the city will contribute is not in the budget, but City Manager Judy Bodway told the council, "I will find money for this if you decide to approve it."

Paul Double suggested that the money be taken from the hotel and lodging tax collected by the city. Bodway said that was not possible because that money, some of which funds Visit Winona, is bound by legal contracts.

While the council voted 6-1 in favor of funding the proposal and other council members voiced their enthusiasm for the project, Michelle Alexander expressed skepticism and concern about the cost and impact of moving the railroad tracks adjacent to the park. "I know that Bay State and other businesses depend on those tracks," she said. Pomeroy responded that the Winona Plant Manager for Bay State Milling, Mike Walsh, is on the committee, so the company has a voice in the committee's work. Alexander also asked if the architects had been given budget recommendations or an idea of how much the city was willing to spend. In regard to setting a budget, Pomeroy said the committee's process is: "We put a vision together and then we talk about how we make that work."

George Borzyskowski voted against the proposal, saying that Mayor Mark Peterson promised to fund the Levee Park project using entirely private donations at the League of Women Voter's Forum last fall. "I am not against the project," Borzyskowski said, "It's just that when people give me their word, I believe in their word. That's the way I will be voting tonight."

Peterson said that he did not promise to fund Levee Park renovations using only private donations. The Winona Post's notes from the event do not show any statements to that effect. The League of Women Voters does not provide video recordings of their events for any reason. 


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