Tribal grants could yield trails, park upgrades in Scott County

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 13, 2012 - 4:30 PM

Cities and the county are pondering the potential uses for $150,000 grants each of them has gotten from the Shakopee tribe.

Savage is thinking about commissioning a statue of the man it's named after. Shakopee might add training space for hockey players. Jordan is considering adding a baseball field or treating it as a down payment on some major civic project - even a new City Hall.

In the aftermath of what's being called "Christmas in October," cities in Scott County are deciding what to do with the $150,000 grants each of them has been awarded by the Shakopee tribe.

In an era when each has spent years slowly chipping away at budgets, deciding what they can do without, it's a pleasant change.

It's a moment, too, for some insights into what each place is itching to do if it only had the bucks.

Some places, notably Prior Lake, are going out of their way to make sure the end use is something tribal members can enjoy as well as other residents.

It's a particularly notable moment for Shakopee, which has warred more than most with the tribe and has complained it doesn't get enough help from it, despite the tribe's pulling land off the tax rolls as it builds up the size of its reservation.

Mayor Brad Tabke said his city is "thrilled." One possible end use is a cause he has long championed: the improvement of the city's community center - specifically, the expansion of the ice arena attached to it, in the form of a so-called "dryland" training facility.

"Kids at all levels of hockey could have more practice time without being on ice," he said.

Another idea being kicked around is the completion of trail sections near downtown Shakopee.

Trails are costly features to add but popular with residents, and they figure heavily on Savage's list of a dozen possible uses for its money.

That list, on which discussions will continue into December, according to city officials, includes a Bluff Trail from Quentin Avenue to the city's municipal campus; trails along the south side of County Rd. 42 from County Rd. 27 to Hwy. 13; another along Hwy. 27 heading to Cleary Lake Park; and trail links to its new sports dome.

The list also includes entrance signage into the city itself or into downtown; a fountain at McColl Pond; a splash park; the creation and furnishing of space for seniors; upgrades to a baseball field, including lights; and a statue or bust of M.W. Savage, after whom the city was named.

Jordan officials also have thrown out a list of concepts, and ones that echo some of those in Savage. They include a fireplace and water fountain at the new library, a Little League field at Holzer Park, and renovations of the police department's space.

"No decisions yet," said Mayor Pete Ewals. "We'll be talking till the end of the year."

Scott County has talked about parks improvements as well, but a couple of commissioners mentioned the idea of buying a piece of equipment that scoots around the county with just a single operator, filling potholes.

"I've heard they cost about $180,000," said commissioner Jon Ulrich. "We discussed the machine itself at a workshop, but we haven't formally discussed it in the context of the grant, so I can't speculate on that. But it might be a worthy way to use the money."

Board Chairman Tom Wolf said he likes the idea for a number of reasons, not least that it's money for the county at large and would improve things everywhere, for everyone, as opposed to any single installation in one spot. "We could use it not just on county roads but for cities and townships," he said.

Prior Lake intends to park the money in a parks improvement fund, earmarked for a future use that could include improvements to parkland it has acquired around Pike Lake.

One key there, council members said at a recent meeting, is that park's proximity to tribal land, making handy for use by tribal members themselves.

"The spirit of this is to go beyond just putting the money in a checking account," said Council Member Rick Keeney. "We want to put it into a piece of capital improvement that is lasting and memorable - that memorializes our relationship."

The grants are being described as "no strings attached," but the tribe isn't just dumping a wheelbarrow full of casino profits at the door.

The gifts are to be "used for capital projects for the benefit of city residents," a letter from tribal chairman Charlie Vig explains. Tribal leaders are asking each jurisdiction -- the county itself and the various cities -- to "provide ... a list of proposed projects prior to the funds being released. We would like to know how the grant funds ultimately are used."

The gifts arrived not long after Vig took over as new tribal chairman following the death of his predecessor, Stanley Crooks. Tribal administrator Bill Rudnicki told council members that Vig "loves capital projects -- he loves to see things built."

David Peterson • 952-746-3285

  • WANT TO WEIGH IN?

    Keep an eye on upcoming agendas for each jurisdiction. Savage, for instance, plans to discuss its options at a Dec. 10 workshop. Prior Lake has salted the money away for future uses to be determined, but others have more near-term thoughts.

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