Worker shortage brings changes to Baxter’s ice rinks
Baxter’s city officials weighed its options for opening the City's ice skating rinks amid a worker shortage.
BAXTER — In an effort to work around a seasonal staffing shortage, council members decided the city will operate its two skating rinks, but keep one of the warming houses closed.
During the Tuesday, Nov. 16, workshop, Bradley Chapulis, Baxter’s city administrator, presented two options available for opening the ice skating rinks with a limited staff.
“As you have been aware, this summer we had a difficult time in hiring seasonal help,” Chapulis said. “This required us to make changes on how we conduct services in the parks system during the summer. That trend is continuing to occur this fall. We anticipate that we will not have a level of interest that we normally do for (our) warming house attendant positions.”
The first option presented to the council included not opening the Oscar Kristofferson Park rink and placing all resources into opening and maintaining the Loren Thompson Park rink.
The second option included opening both rinks but one warming house, leaving the warming house at Oscar Kristofferson Park closed.
Chapulis said the city hired six temporary employees, including two college students who will work during their winter break.
According to the council’s report, the city historically hired six to eight employees who staff the rinks. Both options would save the city between $18,000 and $35,000.
During the discussion, costs for improvements to the condition of the equipment and other work needed at Oscar Kristofferson Park were estimated at about $250,000, and opening just one rink would save the city money as it prepares for possible upgrades to the park in the future.
About 880 people used the rink at Oscar Kristofferson Park during the 2020-21 season and cost the city about $40 per skater. About 1,340 people used the rink at Loren Thompson Park during the 2020-21 season and cost the city about $25 per skater. The rinks individually cost the city around $35,000 a year to operate.
Knowing the importance of the parks and what it means to all those who use them, council member Connie Lyscio said she wants to make something work but would “not be all in with no ice whatsoever” at Oscar Kristofferson Park. Lyscio then reminded the council how putting ice in at Oscar Kristofferson Park keeps people from needing to cross Highway 210 to go skating.
Baxter Public Works Director Trevor Walter said the city could cut costs by leaving the warming house closed and flooding the rink at Oscar Kristofferson Park. With the warming house remaining closed for the season, the city would not create ice around the warming house as they have in past years.
The council agreed to go with the second option as it would allow for some use of the park while working within the confines of a staffing shortage.
In other business, the council:
Approved the interest rate of the 2021 mill and overlay and full-depth reclamation project for College Road and Isle Drive improvements. With the relatively small size of financing needed for the project, it was determined to be more cost-effective to combine the project with other projects planned for 2022 and finance it internally until 2022 when a bond issue is planned. Utilizing similar Minnesota bond sales resulted in a 3.85% assessment interest rate for the 2021 improvements. The 3.85% assessment interest rate is lower than the estimated 4.5% special assessment rates utilized at the project’s public hearing.
Approved issuing an on-sale 3.2% beer and on-sale wine license to Blazing Fired Foods from Feb. 1 through June 30 and to Rafferty’s Pizza of Baxter Inc. for the period of Jan. 1 through June 30.
Approved assessments for unpaid delinquent utility bills, invoices and abatement charges. The outstanding delinquent balances with accrued interest and fees are assessed on the following year’s property taxes.
TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email email@example.com .