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Dave Olson, Published August 10 2010

Moorhead City Council OKs spending for park, museum

By a vote of 7-1 on Monday night, the Moorhead City Council decided the city will put a new roof on the building that houses the Rourke Art Gallery Museum.

In a similar vote, the board also decided to move forward with plans for a rebuild of the main shelter in Gooseberry Park.

The city-owned building that is leased by the Rourke Art Gallery Museum will get a copper roof at a cost of about $118,000.

Under the lease agreement between the museum and the city, the museum will be responsible for covering $52,000 of the cost, and the museum has let the city know via a letter that it intends to make good-faith efforts to raise the funds necessary to keep its obligation.

Still, council members expressed unhappiness that no representative from the museum attended Monday’s council meeting.

Asked by council members what options the city would have if the museum doesn’t pay, City Attorney Brian Neugebauer said if it came to that, the city could take the museum to court to enforce the lease.

Council Member Luther Stueland cast the only “no” vote regarding the plan to fix the building’s leaky roof.

He said after the meeting that he doesn’t think the city should even own the building, and he said if the museum wants the roof fixed, it could take care of it on its own.

On the Gooseberry Park shelter, the council voted 7-1 to authorize staff to seek bids for a complete renovation of the structure, including a new higher roof and new bathroom facilities that would meet handicap-accessibility requirements.

The shelter has been sitting unused due to structural damage to its roof caused by flooding.

The project approved by the council Monday is expected to cost $750,000, with $387,000 covered by city capital improvement funds and the rest covered by state and federal tax dollars.

Stueland, who cast the lone opposing vote on the shelter project, said after the meeting that “three-quarters of a million dollars is a lot to pay for a park shelter.”

Council Member Diane Wray Williams said when city founders established things like parks, they decided to do some things for the common good.

“We are not little entities unto ourselves,” she said. “I put this all into the category of the common good.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555