East Grand Forks asks residents about potential facility upgrades, sales tax

Green Wave vs. Spartans 2018. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
A consulting firm's $24 million recommendation to East Grand Forks city leaders would add a second sheet of ice at the East Grand Forks Civic Center, seen here during a Green Wave game in 2018, and turn the VFW Memorial Arena into a fieldhouse. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

East Grand Forks wants to know what residents think about a $31 million slate of potential Parks and Rec projects.

At the top of the list is a plan that would add a second sheet of ice at the East Grand Forks Civic Center and another related plan to remove the rink at the VFW Memorial Arena and turn it into a multipurpose fieldhouse . Those ideas, as presented by the consultants, would cost an estimated $24 million . That makes it the most expensive plan by far, but city leaders could decide to enact only a portion of the plan, or break it into chunks on which they’ll work over a period of years. The city commissioned a $10,000 study of the two arenas in June, and council members were presented with the results last month.

Also on the list of potential projects is a plan to revamp a piece of the Greenway between the Sorlie and Louie Murray bridges called LaFave Park. City leaders have long considered sprucing up the park and hope that it helps lure Gov. Tim Walz to town for Minnesota’s fishing opener. East Grand Forks staff are angling for a state grant that would pay for at least some of the project, which in its most current iteration would cost $2.3 million. City staff rounded that figure to $2.5 to account for cost inflation.


For $2.5 million, East Grand Forks leaders could upgrade the fields at Stauss Park and others at Williams Park, which is near the Civic Center.

And for $2 million, the city could set aside money to eventually replace some of its trails along the Greenway. As it stands, day-to-day maintenance – sealing a crack, for instance – is paid for with a small fee on residents’ water bills.

East Grand Forks voters in 2016 approved a 1% sales tax, which pays back a loan the city used to renovate a public pool at Sherlock Park. City finance staff expect that tax to expire within a year, and East Grand Forks City Council members have been kicking around the possibility of implementing a new one , revenue from which could help pay for one or more of the city’s hoped-for projects.

City staff are asking residents who are interested in weighing in on those plans to contact Parks and Recreation Superintendent Reid Huttunen at (218) 773-8000 or . They can also speak at an East Grand Forks City Council meeting or visit this part of the city’s website .

That webpage includes an informal poll posted by Huttunen on Dec. 5 that asks if respondents would support a sales tax increase to help fund Parks and Recreation facility improvements. Three people had voted as of Dec. 6 – all in favor.


Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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