Southport beach house resolution topic of contention

Street elevation (C. Cartwright photo, 2002)

The resolution that several alderpersons had drafted regarding requesting funding for the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 2012 was pulled from last night’s Common Council meeting agenda.  See our prior story on this topic:  Southport Beach House Total Restoration Could Cost $3 Million.  Copies of the draft resolution had been distributed at last Wednesday night’s meeting at the beach house.

On Friday morning, Alderperson David Bogdala met with the mayor, and on Friday afternoon, a press release was issued regarding the city’s funding a study for $30,000.  See our story on this as well:  City Proposing to Fund Plan for Southport Beach House.

Several citizens spoke out on this issue, as well as several alderpersons.  During the Citizens’ Comments portion of the Common Council meeting, Margaret Heller, who’s been spearheading the “Save the Southport Beach House” effort, said, “These are confusing times for those supporting the beach house.  I suspect that we are caught up in one of those games where one side (of the Council) supports it, and the other does not.”  She listed those alderpersons who were present at last Wednesday’s meeting, and those that were not present, including Mayor Keith Bosman.  “Are some aldermen truly opportunistic?” she asked.

She wanted to know why a $30,000 study was needed.  “Are they trying to disgrace me, or their opponents?  What is the truth?” she asked.  “I won’t go away because you ignore me.  I’m the middle of seven kids, and I don’t just go away.”

Rob Merletti called for the mayor and for Alderperson Steve Bostrom to work together, and to come up with ways for better park utilization.  Joel Blonshine said that he took a personal tour of the building, and he thanked Heller for getting this project to the point where it is now.  “We need the support of all aldermen and the mayor.  It is something that is not going to go away; we’re not going to let it go away,” he said.  He also thanked Alderperson Steve Bostrom.  “We need the backing of everyone, not a band-aid effect.”

Ray Forgianni said that the “lakefront belongs to the people, the public.  We’re trying to get the building restored.  This squabble is not new.”  Forgianni said that a master plan for the park is required to get federal funding.  The city ordinances on historic preservation do not make us eligible for federal funds.  He called for the modification of the resolution before the Council and a master plan.  “Do both.  Get it done.  Stop fighting.”

Mark Gumbinger of Pleasant Prairie called the beach house “one of Kenosha’s castles, but it’s a story of disappointment.  It was a structure Kenosha coud be proud of.”  He stated that the city has ignored the structure.  Ron Larsen from the Kenosha Theatre Restoration Project, said, “I’ll tell you what to do with it for free.  Open the bathrooms, add air conditioning, and raise the rental rate.”

Karen Scondert moved the Kenosha from Philadelphia five years ago because of the beautiful public beaches.  She stated that she lures her friends from the state and Chicago, but she wasn’t very happy when they had to use the beach in Racine that had lifeguards.  She wrote a speech for the mayor that she hoped he would someday give, introducing the renovated beach house.  She said that she would vote for Bosman a third time.

Bostrom said that “this building means a lot to a lot of people.”  He had a series of photos shown on the screen, some of which showed usage of the building for weddings, etc., and some of which showed some of the building’s disrepair, and others showed parts of the building that were in fairly good shape.  “Some issues need to be addressed sooner rather than later, like the missing bricks and mortar on the east elevation.”

Bostrom also stated that he left last Wednesday night’s beach house meeting and called the mayor.  They both sat down Friday morning at 10:00 am.  By Friday afternoon, I heard the resolution was off the agenda.  “I was stunned.  Then, if we do the study, it almost ensures that nothing will get done until 2014.”

Apparently, the issue was that some felt that the resolution should have first been placed on the Parks Commission meeting agenda, and not immediately be put on the Common Council agenda.

Bostrom also questioned the need for a study, as an analysis of the beach house was already included in the Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP), which was completed last year.  The plan called for allocating $300,000 for beach house repairs.  All of the improvement options were listed.  “We already had professionals look at this,” he said.  He asked his fellow alderpersons to please reconsider this resolution taken off the agenda.

Chairman of the Board of Park Commissioners, Alderperson Michael Orth, said he was disappointed by the turn of events.  He agreed that another study wasn’t needed.  There is a 284-page CORP Plan in a binder, which includes every single park in the city.  “What a sad state of affairs.  Here we are wanting to preserve and protect, and we’ve let this descend into name-calling, innuendo, speculation, and disrespect,” he said.

Orth also said “the CORP Plan makes us eligible for grants.  The Master Plan also makes us eligible for grants.  But, if we start the project, then we’re no longer eligible for grants.”  The Master Plan is intended to guide parks across the city, noting a more focused plan for Southport Park could give the city a better direction for how to proceed.  “Providing handicapped access to the park could make it a destination park.  Planning is what will keep us together,” Orth said.  “If we don’t plan, we neglect.  When we don’t plan, we fail.”

Alderperson David Bogdala was also disappointed that the resolution was pulled.  “We had a resolution lawfully sent in.  It was on the draft agenda Wednesday afternoon.  By Friday afternoon, it was gone.  We just wanted to get the opinion of the Common Council.  If this is the new way we’re going to start doing things, Mayor, kissing rings, egos, etc.  If it will help move this item forward for discussion, take my name off of it.  I won’t waste my time writing resolutions.”

Alderperson Daniel Prozanski gave accolades to Heller for promoting programming like yoga classes at the beach house.  He talked about an “end around, an uncommon, trick play.  Some felt that they were trying to bypass the Parks Commission.  They wanted to know why it went right to the Common Council.  The reason was to allow for citizen input.  It could have been handled through the appropriate process.  We need to keep fidelity to the process.”

Mayor Keith Bosman said that perhaps the impending Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget process would be the proper place for formal budget consideration.  The 2012 process will start after October 1st.

Orth again stated that the Park Commission makes policy decisions, and the Common Council funds it.  They can offer an opinion.  “But that’s where it should have gone in the first place.  We don’t need all of these petty comments, who should be calling who, etc.”

Bogdala said that that’s what they were trying to do, they were trying to bring up the issue early on in the budget process.  “We were trying to let everyone know up front, to know in August, that this is something we’d like to see.  I was accused of bringing issues up at the last minute during last year’s budget process.  Here I was, trying to do a bit of forward planning.”

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