AUSTIN (AP) -- The City Council is caught between a rink and a hard place.
Companies and individuals have raised money to renovate the town's ice arena into a multi-purpose facility and add a practice ice rink for hockey and skating. But the $5.4 million project needs $1.8 million in city funds.
At a meeting Monday, the City Council will decide whether to commit the money or wait until its fiscal future is clearer.
Austin relies heavily on state assistance for its municipal budget. Because the Legislature still hasn't resolved a portion of the state's budget deficit, some city officials are reluctant to tackle a major capital project.
"I have nothing against hockey or figure skating, but it's a bad time for something like this economically," said Pete Christopherson, a council member. He added, "Not knowing what the state is going to do to solve its funding problems and the future of state aid to cities bothers me."
Mayor Bonnie Rietz is in favor of moving forward with the project. She noted that construction bids that were unsealed last week were under the projected budget. Funding also has been raised from a variety of sources, including $800,000 from Mower County and over $1 million from Hormel Foods Corp. and its foundation.
"This project is as vital today as it was any other day," said Larry Lyons, who represents Hormel and the Austin Youth Hockey Association and figure skating interests. "In fact, the need is there more so today than ever before."
Many Austin parents take their children to practice and play games at facilities in Kasson, Albert Lea and Owatonna.
The existing Riverside Arena is operating in the red and has a poor heating and cooling system. A dehumidification system is planned in the renovation, which will help get rid of fog that often develops over the arena's ice.
If the council approves its funding, construction could begin later this month and be finished in early December.
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