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A $150 million event center proposal for north Bismarck got a cautious reception from Bismarck city commissioners, who asked the developer, Dr. Ron Knutson, how the city would pay for it.

At their meeting Tuesday, the commissioners also learned they will have to wait two more weeks until costs are determined for a curbside recycling program that allows certain residents to opt out for one time.

Knutson has offered to donate 50 acres of property for the city to build a new event center instead of expanding the existing Bismarck Civic Center for $25 million.

State Sen. Lonnie Laffen, R-Grand Forks, presented JLG Architects’ plans for a 14,000-seat event center that would be built between 57th Avenue and Highway 1804.

Knutson’s plan and the civic center expansion will be discussed at three meetings — scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at the Prairie Rose Room of the Civic Center, 5:30 p.m. next Monday at the Horizon Middle School and 5:30 p.m. next Tuesday at the Wachter Middle School.

Knutson’s event center proposal is part of a much larger master commercial and residential development on 640 acres. The event center would be in the center, surrounded by single family homes, commercial properties, a hotel and a water park. Nearby would be the high school and a possible ice arena and medical facilities. Park space will be blended into the plans, Laffen said. The event center would have 4,000 parking spaces, according to Laffen.

Commissioner Parrell Grossman cautioned that paying for a $150 million facility with sales tax alone for a 20-year bond could mean adding a full penny sales tax for the city. He didn’t think it would be favored “in light of a need for a new jail.”

“We don’t have a financial plan,” Laffen said. “I would be sure the whole thing wouldn’t be sales tax. There could be naming rights and a combination of (options).”

Hospitality taxes could be part of it, Laffen said.

Knutson suggested a full study be done to see what residents want. Commissioners said they had done already done studies that favored convention center needs.

The event center and nearby projects could “bring $1 billion in development to that sector of town,” Knutson said.

“This will not hurt the downtown. It will make the downtown grow,” he said.

Commissioners wanted better financing numbers.

“I am trying to listen, but I am not getting a lot of details,” said Mayor John Warford.

He said the citizens will need to know what the numbers would be and that the city will have to pay for it.

“You don’t have a plan,” Warford said.

Knutson said a group of residents and business leaders need to get together to decide what they want the event center to be and how to finance it.

When he was asked what the city should do with the existing civic center, Knutson said it could be used for one of the colleges, as a jail or even a new city hall.

The proposed development runs next to the Hay Creek drainage area. Knutson and Laffen said it could become a water feature for green space on the property.

Curbside recycling

Jeff Heintz, director of public services for Bismarck, said hauler Waste Management needs more time to configure what recycling costs will be for each single family household with some opting out. He clarified the opt-out provision, saying it “was for those with financial hardship or space restrictions only.”

Heintz said he had spoken to City Attorney Charlie Whitman and he didn’t feel allowing the opt out would legally change the city’s requests for offers for curbside recycling. Waste Management’s current plan would charge each household $3.51 per month to haul recyclables in one container.

“It doesn’t change the request for proposals. We don’t expect that many people to have a financial hardship (to opt out). We should not see the costs double for each household.” Heintz said Tuesday.

Other business

The commission also:

* Agreed to pay the SRF Consulting Group $105,073 to design quiet rail infrastructure for Third, Fifth and 12th streets. SRF was selected as design engineer by the city in January, but this action finalized the contract.

* Awarded Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson to do its engineering services to design reconstruction and widening Washington Street from Calgary Avenue to 57th Avenue North for $317,328.

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

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