Dickinson Parks & Recreation reports increased revenue, rising expenses

City leaders discuss Solid Waste and Recycling contracts, the polar winter and a new Library Director

West River Community Center
The West River Community Center in Dickinson is pictured.
Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press
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DICKINSON — During a regular city commission meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, city leaders heard an annual report from parks & recreation, discussed snow removal and the approval process for contracts.


Dickinson Parks & Recreation Executive Director Benjamin Rae delivered an annual report for the organization.

The West River Community took in approximately $1.9 million of revenue in 2022, mostly from annual memberships. This is a boost from $1.55 million in 2020. But expenses have also risen from $1.93 million in 2020 to $2.2 million in 2022. Rae explained the facility’s utility costs have risen 13% over the past year, and that maintenance issues plague the nearly 20 year-old building. The WRCC frequently places buckets and towels throughout to catch water from frequently leaky pipes.

Rae thanked city leaders for their support on parks projects. He has $185,000 in improvements planned for the coming year. These include a playground replacement, Heart River Golf Course irrigation upgrades and baseball park improvements.

Commissioner Robert Baer asked about the possibility of Olympic sized, competition grade swimming pools. He said Williston is the only other city in this region of the state with pools adequate for such competitions, and that the growing DHS-Trinity co-op team would get a lot of use from such facilities.


Mayor Scott Decker suggested upgrades to the ice center were much needed, given the high rate of local participation in youth hockey.

“That’s always always the challenge within our limited resources, trying to determine where those priorities are and how to best stretch those dollars to meet everybody’s needs,” Rae said, adding that he appreciated Baer’s suggestion as a former swimming coach himself.

Decker also said he sees an opportunity to provide more outdoor swimming.

“We’ve had some decent summers, so having that outdoor facility is really nice but there’s always room for expansion,” he said. “Most of us grew up in town here with two outdoor swimming pools. Yeah they’re limited in usage but they’re greatly appreciated during that short time in the summer.”

Wild winter

Decker then commended city staff for their hard work amid record snowfall levels and -50℉ wind chills. Odermann asked Public Works Director Gary Zuroff about the state of morale in his department. Zuroff noted the streets division is half-staffed with just six people, many have been working shifts of 12-16 hours or more, and that employees from every division of public works have been pitching in to help.

Dickinson snow removal
A Dickinson Public Works employee blows snow off a road on Tuesday.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

“It’s pretty early to be getting this much snow in this much time so I really need to look at how we’re going to do shifts and try to give some of them a break,” Zuroff said. “When a storm hits they’re ready to go… Right now I would say attitudes are still good but I’m worried about the rest of the winter and more storms, especially with the piles of snow we have.”

Other business

Solid Waste and Recycling Manager Aaron Praus addressed the commission regarding five contracts for sprinkler systems on city properties.
Commissioner John Odermann suggested that city staff should be allowed to enter into financial contracts below a certain threshold to boost efficiency and save time, but City Administrator Dustin Dassinger explained it was a policy agreed upon by a previous commission.

“Could we set a threshold? I mean we could talk about that at a future meeting. I was just curious because $200 seems like a pretty small amount for the commission," Odermann said.


Decker said that policy was implemented to be forthright to the public about every contract that was being awarded.

“I think it just goes back to it’s a contract,” Decker said.

All five contracts were unanimously approved.

Human Resources Coordinator Shelly Nameniuk said the city has hired a new Dickinson Area Public Library Director to replace outgoing director Rita Ennen. The position will be filled by Danielle Kappel, a library media specialist at Dickinson Middle School. Kappel will assume the role in late January. Nameniuk said the library still has three additional positions to fill.

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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