The Bismarck Park Board is mulling whether to buy the Bismarck State College Aquatic and Wellness Center instead of leasing it from the private nonprofit group that financed it.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board also approved an archaeological dig of Chief Looking’s Village to allow a team to study how the Mandan people lived in the 1500s.

Streamline took out a $9.4 million loan to build the aquatic center on the BSC campus in 2008. The Bismarck Park District has been paying $700,000 per year to repay the loan.

Park finance director Augie Ternes told the board, during its scheduled five-year review of the lease, that the park district could buy the building and expand the aquatics center to increase users and revenue. Ternes said the park district could finance the purchase of the building through revenue bonds.

The interest rates would be lower now at 3.3 percent instead of the approximately 5.2 percent rate the park district is currently paying on the loan terms, Ternes said.

“It would be beneficial to purchase because the rate would be set for 20 years,” he explained.

Ternes said a $3 million expansion is being discussed for the aquatic center to provide more gym space and a walking track.

“It’s undecided. It’s up to the board,” he said. “A facility study showed it would cost $2 million to $3 million more to expand it.”

The matter will be discussed at the July 18 park board meeting. The park board wants public comment on its lease decision.

Ternes said the board also could continue the lease the pool facility from five to 20 more years. If it continues the lease, the lease terms will be reviewed in another five years.

Operation costs of the pool/recreation facility are $903,000 per year. Ternes said the park district uses 83 percent revenue to run the facility and the park district subsidizes running it by 17 percent — $158,000 per year — in addition to the loan payment.

Dig

The park board approved an archaeological dig at Chief Looking’s Village for the PaleoCultural Research Group, based in Colorado, if it lands grant funding and with consent from the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Fern Swenson, director of artifacts and historical preservation division of the state Historical Society, made the request on behalf of the PaleoCultural Research Group.

She said the new dig would be a follow-up of one done at the site in 2008 of Mandan people who lived there before Europeans arrived.

“It was revealed the site was occupied for 20 to 40 years and perhaps 100 Mandan would have lived at that site at that time,” she said. “Part of the site has long, rectangular houses and others have circular earth lodges. ... At that time there was a change in the architecture — from rectangular to the round earth lodges.”

Swenson said the study will help determine why the change and what were daily interactions of the village with themselves and with others.

She said the research group is re-applying for a National Science Foundation Grant to do more work at the site, with two weeks of digging in 2014 and two in 2015. Then it will document its findings.

“We would have the Three Affiliated (Tribes) involved in the project since it is a Mandan site,” Swenson said.

She said the PaleoCultural Research Group is making contact with Elgin Crows Breast, tribal historical preservation officer for the Three Affiliated Tribes.

“We would have the support of Three Affiliated (Tribes) or the project wouldn’t happen,” she added.

Ball park bid nixed

The park board also decided to re-advertise bids for the renovation of the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark after the lone general contractor bid came in too high.

It rejected the only bid and hoped more contractors would study the specs next time. Mechanical and electrical low bids will be held on the project until a decision is made.

In related action, the park board separately voted to rebid relocating bleachers from the municipal ballpark to the Haaland Field. Its only bid was also too high.

 

Reach LeAnn Eckroth at 701-250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.