Imagine Pequot Lakes with a city administrator. Or an indoor hockey rink. How about an improved Sibley Park?
These ideas and many more were tossed out at a visioning session of the Pequot Lakes City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 22, identifying possible future needs of the city.
Council members and city staff shared ideas, regardless of cost or feasibility. Mayor Nancy Adams wrote the ideas on large sheets of paper for all to see, and then the group consolidated ideas into subgroups and prioritized them.
No action was taken on any ideas. The goal was to generate ideas and prioritize them. City clerk Sandy Peine will summarize the discussion for council members to consider in the future.
Following are the six subgroups and ideas included in each:
Parks/amenities to draw people to town and keep them there
Sibley Park; parks in general; community garden; obtain center of town park; splash park; community center; dog park; bike, snowmobile and walking trail; Cole Memorial Building uses; indoor hockey rink; summertime restrooms.
Big finance picture
Tax equalization (urban and rural taxing districts), bonding, innovative financing/revolving loan fund, incentives for vacant lot development (in-fill lots).
City gateway, planning for downtown, recovery of Old 371 and County Road 11, parking lots, future commercial development sites, sewer ponds/sanitation, comprehensive plan.
Public works facility, streets and infrastructure plan, storm sewer, infrastructure assessment, remodel of city hall, capital improvement plan, cemetery.
City administrator, structure of government.
Visitors bureau, citywide wifi, marketing city, partnership with neighboring communities.
Each council member then put stars next to what each considered to be the most important ideas. Results were:
• Parks: Sibley Park, splash park and trails.
• Finance: Urban and rural taxing districts, revolving loan fund, fill-in incentives.
• Planning: Gateway to city, comprehensive plan and downtown planning.
• Public works: Streets and infrastructure plan; and new public works facility.
• Government: City administrator.
• Marketing: Marketing the city, such as by giving away mugs, cups hats and shirts emblazoned with “Pequot Lakes.”
The council discussed promoting Peine to city administrator in some capacity. Options would be to combine an administrator/city clerk position or have an administrator and city clerk/deputy clerk.
This won’t happen overnight, but the council may further discuss the idea. It would not result in additional staff.
Regarding Sibley Park, the council would like to see the park improved and made safer. Ideas included winter skating on the lake, safer steps leading down to the lake and lighting.
“When I was a kid when all that stuff was built we went there daily,” said council member Tyler Gardner. “Now it’s just kind of rundown.”
Council member Dave Sjoblad mentioned the possibility of a trail from downtown Pequot Lakes to Sibley Park.
Regarding tax equalization of the urban and rural taxing districts, the council learned the Economic Development Committee (EDC) will look at that. Council members are to submit any questions they have in writing for the EDC.
Council member Scott Pederson talked about the need for a visitor bureau to promote Pequot Lakes. The Pequot Lakes chamber is part of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber, which promotes business and not necessarily the town, he said.
“Nisswa kicks the tail off of Pequot Lakes when it comes to promoting the town,” he said, noting Nisswa is unique in that the chamber promotes the town and functions as a tourism bureau because Nisswa doesn’t have the industry Pequot Lakes has.
He suggested a kiosk with information and restrooms. Pequot Lakes could collaborate with Breezy Point in a tourism mode — not to build business, but to bring people to the area to shop, eat and stay.
Overall, the council discussed the need to look to the future.
“We need to grow the town. We need to get the future in place,” Adams said.
Pederson said the council can continue to make ends meet and keep taxes the same or lower each year, but at some point the city will pay huge costs to totally rebuild infrastructure and streets.
“That’s the risk of pinching pennies,” he said. “We have to define what the value is and what we’re willing to pay as a city.”
Sjoblad said he’s proud of what’s been done since Sibley Township and the city of Pequot Lakes merged.