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Council members split over parks survey

Maybe if a couple of campground were in the proposals, things might be a little easier. As it is stands right now, there two sets of opinions when it comes to parks facility needs in Farmington, and it's all a matter of which camp is bigger.

That's why the Farmington City Council voted 3-2 Monday to spend $10,900 for a community survey to find out how residents feel about a possible bond referendum in November to pay for parks and recreation facilities and upgrade.

Two council members, Julie May and Steve Wilson, feel the timing for a referendum is simply not right. Wilson said in the weeks since a March 22 workshop on the issue he has heard from many residents who urge him to vote against a referendum at this time. Wilson and May were against spending money on a survey. They suggested that money could better be used on maintenance of existing facilities.

"We just, as a city, have not done a good job of setting money aside to take care of what we have," May said during Monday's council meeting.

But three other members - mayor Todd Larson and council members Christy Jo Fogarty and Terry Donnelly - are interested to hear what residents have to say on the matter. Fogarty said she's gotten calls urging her to push for a fall referendum.

"I think we're getting residents (comments) based on the comments we have made," she told Wilson. "I think we're going to get comments from the people who are in our camps or not in our camps."

Fogarty said conducting a community survey would serve another purpose. Feedback might just indicate that the timing for a referendum is not right, but it might also give council members and the parks and recreation commission an idea what residents see as the most pressing priorities for parks facilities.

"If a referendum isn't wanted, we need to know where to spend the money," Fogarty said.

The discussion was prompted by a request from Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad, who asked council members to approve the expenditure of $10,900 to hire the polling company of Leisure Vision to conduct a community survey in the next few months. That amount would cover the comments of 400 homeowners, chosen at random by the company.

The votes on whether to go ahead with the survey were predictably split by the camps Fogarty referred to - she, Larson and Donnelly supported the expenditure; May and Wilson did not.

Leisure Vision will develop questions for the survey over the next few weeks. Those will come back to the council for approval at the May 3 meeting. The survey itself is scheduled for May 18-June 18, with a draft of the results ready by late June. Council members will receive those results in July and decide afterward if the results indicate the city should go ahead with a parks referendum this fall.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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