A location has been chosen for the senior center and trailhead facility inside of Murray Park.
Going into last week Tuesday’s Ripon Common Council meeting, multiple decisions needed to be made to keep the Senior Center/Trailhead project on schedule and eligible for funds from a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
“If we continue to push things off into August, we get dangerously close to having to say, we cannot accept the CDBG public facilities grant because we can’t keep up our end,” City Administrator Adam Sonntag said.
The Common Council voted to approve a location, a target budget and project scope. There were three locations identified for the project, but the one chosen will avoid removing existing basketball and tennis courts.
Sonntag said the location identified would require two disc golf holes to be relocated to underused space inside Murray Park.
He added that Ripon Early Bird Kiwanis has offered to spend $6,000 to assist in relocating disc golf holes.
The anticipated cost of the project is $2.27 million. So far, the city has received about $600,000 in donations for the project, along with a $552,000 CDBG grant, Sonntag said. The city also hopes to receive roughly $200,000 for the project from a DNR stewardship grant.
Additionally, the city is anticipating having to match between $600,000 and $700,000 for the project, which Sonntag said is manageable.
He noted Ripon could use a combination of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, borrowing and money from the capital improvement plan.
“There’s a way to do this,” the city administrator told the Common Council, adding that Fond du Lac County may be willing to help fund the trailhead portion of the project.
City Attorney Lud Wurtz said Ripon isn’t “locked into” paying $2.27 million for the project, but the target cost helps widen the project’s impact.
“It’s not just a senior center with some trail connections, it takes into consideration disc golf courses and improvements to ball fields,” he said.
Beyond the senior center and trailhead facility, Sonntag said the project helps the city develop a “master plan for the park” by enabling it to “connect the dots” to future projects.
The project enables the city to expand trail connections in Murray Park to bring them closer to the ball diamonds, Sonntag said.
He added that future projects identified include creating bleacher shade structures for ball diamonds and replacing dugout structures.
Sonntag said viewing the project through a wider lens enables the city to benefit more sectors of the community while laying a blueprint for future planning efforts in the parks as there’s a community demand for more trail connections and upgrades to facilities.
“It’s a little more ambitious than just a senior center and trailhead,” he said of the project’s scope. “We want to maximize grant dollars and maximize relationships to address deficiencies and needs.”
In fact, the city administrator has met with the Ripon Diamond Booster Club and Ripon Area Youth Baseball & Softball program.
He said both organizations are “100% in support of fundraising for ball diamonds and in support of this project and this plan.”
Sonntag added that the ball clubs are willing to match funds up to $50,000 to help fund a $100,000 project on the ball diamonds.
To create the most benefit to the community, he said prioritizing other initiatives in Murray Park and trying to accomplish them in two years “makes a lot of sense.”
“There’s a lot of flexibility to do a lot of improvements up there that would change the entire feel and vibe of the park in a significant way,” Sonntag said. “... It may be a little bit more money, but sometimes spending more money means doing it right.”
Similarly, Ripon Senior Activity Center Executive Director Noreen Johnson said the estimated 3,500 square-foot senior center building aims to be a “multi-generational” facility that could be rented out by community members.
“We look forward to having a better place for Ripon that brings people into Ripon and makes them remember Ripon,” she said. “When they go to baseball games, they’ll look up and see a beautiful building.”
Ald. Howard Hansen said the senior center/trailhead project will likely be the final major addition in Murray Park.
Similarly, Ald. Jolene Schatzinger praised the project scope for offering features that the community wants and making good use of the space inside Murray Park.
“I really like where this is going,” she said.
While the Common Council approved a location, a target project cost and a park plan last week Tuesday, it will not be the last time officials vote on aspects of the senior center/trailhead project.
Sonntag added that a public input meeting is anticipated for next month and various approvals on specific aspects of the project will be necessary in the coming months.
In other news
In other news from the Ripon Common Council meeting:
- The Common Council approved a cruising request from Ripon Main Street, Inc. for the Scoop the Loop event Saturday, Aug. 7. The third-annual event runs from 5 to 8 p.m. The event has been shortened by one hour to minimize traffic-related issues.
- In addition, the Common Council approved a payment request by James Peterson Sons, Inc., of $27,619.83 for the ongoing Vermont Street and Parkway Terrace reconstruction.