City of Albert Lea put rec facilities upgrades on the ballot

Albert Lea Rec Center Upgrades Going to Voters

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(ABC 6 News) – The need to improve recreational facilities in Albert lea is adamant, but how far will voters go to get these improvements done?

They’ll have a say this fall.

The city would like to get the ball rolling on improving the City Arena, Aquatic Center, Marion Ross Performing Arts Center and the Splash Pad.

“Recreation in general is very important to the city of Albert Lea, to the community, to our businesses, to everyone,” said Albert Lea city manager Ian Rigg.

City leaders estimates it would cost around $9.8 million to complete all of these projects.

The city council met Monday night to discuss how they hope to fund the projects and it came down to two options.

“Either do an election certificate or a referendum and do it that way, or to do a tax abatement,” Albert Lea mayor Rich Murray said.

Ultimately in a 5 to 2 vote, the council left it up to voters to decide.

There will be a special election on April 9 where the community will answer yes or no to the referendum.

Mayor Rich Murray voted against it, however he’s not opposed to the idea, he just wants residents to know what they’re voting for.

“This is nearly a 9% increase in taxes to put this all on a referendum and if it’s approved that’s what is going to increase taxes.”

The mayor would like to see improvements to the rec facilities but thinks there’s a better way.

“Some of these projects could’ve been spread out over the next two, three, four years, so it’s not to take that full tax spike in one year.”

Even so, the council says the upgrades are something that needs to get done.

City manager, Ian Rigg says a failed referendum would not only slow down progress on repairs but cause even more problems, for example, at the City Arena.

“We will lose one sheet of ice within that relatively short period of time, and that would absolutely decimate our program.”

The city council is hoping the referendum passes this spring so they can get to work as soon as next year.