A crowd packed into Brainerd City Council chambers Monday night expecting a lengthy discussion about the Brainerd Area Civic Center ice arenas.
The published agenda included discussion on rates, financial reports, facility issues, user input and upcoming event requests.
However, no discussion was held and the council took no action on those issues.
Instead, the council held discussion until its June 1 meeting while City Attorney Tom Fitzpatrick determined who actually owns the Gold Medal Arena - the city or Brainerd Amateur Hockey Association.
Council member Mary Koep, who along with council members Kevin Goedker and Bob Olson is a member of the recently appointed Council Arena Committee, said she and Olson met with Fitzpatrick and City Administrator Dan Vogt to go over the city's arena lease with BAHA.
The lease, she said, referred to the city owning the ground the Gold Medal Arena rests on but not the building. BAHA entered into a lease agreement with the city in 1998, allowing it to build the Gold Medal Arena. After seven years, the arena was to be turned over to the city debt free.
"Neither the city nor BAHA can be both owners and renters. There has to be a distinction," Koep said. "If BAHA in fact owns the arena, then they run it. We have nothing to say about how they use that arena."
Olson said discussion on the arenas should also be held until the council knows if more local government aid to the city would be cut by the state.
Council member Bonnie Cumberland, who took the Council Arena Committee to task May 5 for bringing several items for council consideration without prior information or notice, said she wanted to "go back to square one" with the arena discussion.
Cumberland posed several questions she wanted answered: What was the purpose of the arena? How is it being marketed? What funds are needed to run both arenas without going into debt? And what groups use it and what hours is it used?
She also questioned whether the Arena Oversight Committee still had a role despite no longer having council members appointed to it, what role the Council Arena Committee played and what the relationship is with the council, staff and the committees in decision-making.
Her goals were making the arenas self-sustaining, making them attractive and having events in them that attract people to the arena.
"Honestly, until I know the answers to those, I'm not voting for anything," Cumberland said.
Council member Anne Nelson Fisher said she misunderstood the intent of removing council members from the Arena Oversight Committee and forming the Council's Arena Committee.
She said that from what she understands, the Arena Oversight Committee is no more and the Council's Arena Committee has taken it upon itself to handle issues and negotiations in the city's name without council direction in some instances.
"I'd like to see that changed in the future," Fisher said.
Olson and Koep didn't deny Fisher's statement, but both said former council member Mark O'Day also had made decisions concerning gate receipts and dry floor events without council input while he served on the Arena Oversight Committee.
Goedker said the council this year has talked about having an open, transparent government and he understood concerns about the lack of notification concerning the Council's Arena Committee meetings and recommendations. He said interested parties would be informed when the committee meets.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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