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Community Center seeks continued Council support

WILLMAR -- The chairperson of the Community and Activity Center Council is requesting the City Council continue its commitment to the center as retirement nears for long-time center coordinator and recreation supervisor LeAnne Freeman.

WILLMAR - The chairperson of the Community and Activity Center Council is requesting the City Council continue its commitment to the center as retirement nears for long-time center coordinator and recreation supervisor LeAnne Freeman.
Earl Knutson said a big topic of discussion at the Aug. 5 Community Center Council meeting was what will happen to the center after Freeman retires Sept. 17.
“We just think that it’s good to have someone there who is not just an administrator but something of a visionary who can look around and size up the needs of the community, especially the (over) 50 part of the community, look at the resources we have and see what kind of programs we can best put forward to meet the needs for the 50-plus crowd,’’ said Knutson.
“We hope that the city and City Council will find it possible to replace LeAnne Freeman with a skilled, talented person who can continue what she started,’’ Knutson told the City Council Monday night.
The Community Center Council approved a motion that supports the city continuing its commitment to facilities and program, according to meeting minutes. The motion also states the commitment should provide the resources necessary to determine the needs of current and future center users.
City Councilman Tim Johnson, liaison to the Community Center, thanked Knutson and others for their work. Johnson said he considers the Community Center one of the city’s three major assets.
“I put it with the Auditorium, and the Arena. I believe we have been a little neglectful of keeping those facilities at the level that they need to be kept,’’ Johnson said. “With respect to the Community Center, I believe as we get an aging population here in town, the needs are there and we need to meet those continuously. Every time I stop out there, it’s busy. That’s a very busy scene and I enjoy going out there and seeing how busy it is when I talk to LeAnne.’’
Councilman Jim Dokken, who served on the center’s council for about six years, thanked citizen supporters, and he asked Mayor Frank Yanish to keep the center in mind so it gets funded properly.
The minutes of the center’s Aug. 5 meeting were accepted by the council under the consent agenda.
City Councilman Denis Anderson asked if the council - by accepting the minutes - would be approving the staff positions recommended by the Community Center.
City Administrator Charlene Stevens said the City Council is not approving those staffing positions.
According to Stevens, Freeman is currently a city employee. However, under the community education and recreation joint powers agreement with the Willmar School District,  Freeman’s position would be replaced as a school district employee.
Stevens said how that position is structured is still being discussed.
Stevens said Community Education and Recreation Director Steve Brisendine has made a proposal on how he would like to see that position structured. But Stevens said the decision will ultimately be made by herself, the school district superintendent and joint powers board.
Stevens said a job description has not been formalized or even drafted at this point.
“There’s different ways to go about the position. There’s different ways to also supervise that facility with the staff that is part of community ed and rec, and that is what we’re working through,’’ said Stevens.
City Councilwoman Audrey Nelsen said she is concerned about city buildings being open without having staff in them.
“I know that’s the case with the Auditorium. It’s also the case at the Community Center,’’ she said. “Is that a different subject or is that something that should be addressed at the same time?’’.
Stevens said the intent would be to try to have staff working there when the building is open, whether that’s a full-time or part-time position.
“I think there is an opportunity there, not necessarily have to be staffed by one full-time person out there the entire time. It could be staffed by part-timers as well. But to have a presence there when the building is open does make a lot of sense.’’

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