The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Monday granted additional authority to Superintendent Al Bangoura, giving him the power to, among other actions, close parkways and even parks for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.
The board granted Bangoura the powers during a special meeting on a 8-1 vote, with Commissioner Kale Severson voting against it.
The declaration allows Bangoura to make decisions related to the pandemic with consent of Park Board President Jono Cowgill. It would bypass the usual approvals needed from the entire board, which doesn’t meet again until April 22.
The declaration, written by the Park Board’s legal counsel Brian Rice, gives Bangoura discretion to close parks and parkways temporarily with the consent of Cowgill and the district commissioner.
It allows him to enter into contracts related to mitigating the spread of coronavirus, and to spend money from the parks budget, including digging into reserves.
It also gives him the ability to settle workers’ compensation claims up to $100,000 and general liability claims up to $50,000.
Bangoura will be required to inform commissioners of his actions on a regular basis, including decisions on spending, contracts and employees hired or reassigned to respond to the pandemic.
His special authority would end on June 7. It can be rescinded by the board at any time.
Similar executive authority was given to Mayor Jacob Frey when the city declared a local emergency over the pandemic last month.
The Park Board selected Bangoura as superintendent in 2018. This is his second year in the position as head of the city’s parks system.
The coronavirus pandemic is expected to take a toll on the Park Board’s finances. The board is projected to lose $3.4 million through June 30 — much of it due to the closure of its facilities — meaning it will likely have to dig into its emergency funds, according to a presentation given to commissioners last week.
Local parks have become a focal point of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with Gov. Tim Walz allowing outdoor recreation during his stay-at-home order while encouraging people to practice social distancing.
The Park Board has pleaded with residents not to flock to popular lakes and trails so it can keep the parks open to the public.
The Park Board barricaded three more parkways for users over the weekend: the northbound lane of Cedar Lake Parkway between Sunset Boulevard and Cedar Lake Road; intermittent full and one-lane closures around Lake of the Isles Parkway; and the northbound lane of West River Parkway between S. 46th and 11th avenues.