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Council paves way for Centre expansion

At a special meeting Monday night, the New Richmond City Council approved two resolutions that will eventually lead to the expansion of the New Richmond Area Centre facility.

The council voted 5-0 to vacate a portion of Starr Avenue following a public hearing on the topic.

It was standing-room-only for that portion of the meeting, although only a few people chose to speak when the public was allowed to chime in.

Centre Executive Director Darian Blattner said the city street needed to be vacated because the expanded facility would fall within the road right-of-way. With the vacation of the street, the roadway would be converted into a driveway for the exercise and recreation facility and maintained by The Centre.

With the street vacation, Blattner said nothing will change in terms of the operation of The Centre. But the expansion will allow the facility to better serve its growing membership, he noted.

Council member Jane Hansen said the operation would change, as traffic would increase in the neighborhood as membership continues to grow.

Neighbor Don Lipps said traffic and parking issues are already a problem in the area, and he urged the council to consider those issues prior to allowing The Centre to proceed with its expansion.

Mayor Fred Horne said The Centre is already planning an additional 26 parking spots.

Later in the meeting, following a closed session, the council also approved bond financing for The Centre project through the Community Development Authority.

Local business owner Dianne Joachim spoke against the city's financing proposal, saying taxpayers should not be on the hook for a loan for the fitness facility.

"My government shouldn't be in the banking or real estate business," she said.

In other business:

* The council voted to paint the words "New Richmond" on the downtown water tower following its renovation this spring. The council had considered painting the city's new logo on the tower, but there were concerns that people wouldn't be able to tell what the logo says or what it signifies.

* The council rejected a request by Police Lt. Jerry Cody for early retirement. The council agreed to work on a possible city policy related to early retirements and when they would be allowed. In the past, the city has offered an early retirement option if a position was slated to be eliminated.