Blue Earth tweaks land swap

BLUE EARTH – Blue Earth City Council on Monday reconsidered an agreement to swap some city land with property held by the Faribault County Fair Board.

In the end, the council approved sending a proposal to the fair board, but not everyone was happy about it.

Under the plan, the city would take control of almost 2 acres surrounding the Green Giant statue owned by the fair board, in exchange for about 3 acres of city land that includes the grandstand at the fairgrounds.

The newest twist involves the northern border of the fairgrounds land. A previous proposal measured 225 feet from the south corner of the city’s land, but during the last council meeting members discussed moving the boundary to 265 feet, so that the fair board would possess the gate in the road that leads to the former go-kart site.

But the council wants to maintain ownership of that parcel of land that extends to the north edge of the fairgrounds, to allow the youth ball group to put in another diamond.

The new deal didn’t sit well with everyone.

Milton Steele of the fair board read a statement saying the two entities had previously reached an agreement.

“We feel that’s what should be voted on,” he said.

Mayor Rick Scholtes said a city subcommittee did not return a recommendation on what to do with the agreement referenced by Steele.

“That’s why we came up with this,” he said.

Councilman John Gartzke asked why there has to be a recommendation, and asked if the city has looked at alternative locations.

No, Scholtes said, because the city already owns the land at the fairgrounds.

“We got enough ball diamonds,” Gartzke objected.

“No, we don’t,” countered Scholtes, adding that the diamonds are booked, with all the baseball and softball groups needing the same size fields.

“You’re asking us to fund this thing,” Gartzke said.

Scholtes explained the ball groups will raise money to put in the field; the city will not pay for it.

“Most ball diamonds are funded by the city,” said Councilman Glenn Gaylord, citing neighboring towns.

Gartzke noted there is nearby farmland available.

Scholtes pointed out the fairgrounds land was a ball field before the go-kart track was developed.

“There was a resolution to turn it back into a ball diamond,” said Councilman Dan Brod. “I was here [on the council] when it was done.”

Brod acknowledged Gartzke’s point that the current council does not have to follow that resolution, but he also raised another point: “Where will they get money to buy farmland?”

Brod also said it is the city’s responsibility to provide recreation for residents.

“Let’s be realistic, why can’t we share property?” Brod asked.

Councilman John Huisman suggested that if the ball groups can’t raise the money to put in a field, the city could make sure the land goes to the fair board and not to someone else.

“Details need to be worked out, but it’s a possibility,” said City Attorney David Frundt.

The council approved the new agreement in a 6-1 vote, with Gartzke voting no.

The deal now goes to the fair board, which will consider it April 9.