Parks Commission approves plan for Southport Park

At tonight’s Board of Park Commissioners meeting, an agenda item had to do with spending $38,000 on a task order for professional services by SAA Design Group, Inc., for the master park plan for Southport Park.  The study is due to be be finalized by December 21st.

There will be a series of three informational meetings scheduled in the next four months, inviting the public to give their input.  Chairman Michael Orth said that “typically, they do more listening than talking at these informational meetings.  They then synthesize the input and then present it at the next meeting.”

Alderperson David Bogdala was questioning the resolution that was pulled from the last Common Council meeting’s agenda.  He expressed the frustration and concern of the citizens that a study was not needed.  “That’s where all projects go to die,” he said.  He spoke for the citizens, saying that they wanted to know what the action plan was, and the what the funding was for the 2013 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and beyond.

The resolution that was pulled called for three things:  placing money in the CIP for 2013; addressing the immediate needs of the building; and creating a citizen committee.

Margaret Heller, who’s been spearheading the effort, was questioning Chairman Orth on the $3 million number which has been quoted as the total cost for a complete renovation of the building.  Kenosha’s director of engineering Shelly Billingsley said that that number was a “ballpark figure.  Once the bid goes out, the cost should come down significantly.”

Bogdala said that “we are all in favor of a master park plan to make the building more usable, and to expand the usage.  One thing this effort has done is to expand awareness of the building, letting more people know about it.  My grandparents will be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary there this Sunday, and they are from out of town.”

Alderperson Eric Haugaard raised the question about the upcoming winter storm conditions.  He wanted to know what the risk mitigation plan was.  “Will there be an assessment in the next month or so?”  Chairman Michael Orth said that there is no money besides the dollar amount in the CIP for upcoming years.  Jeff Warnock, parks superintendent, said that they will look at the immediate problems, and they will be addressed.

John Fox wanted to know what the $300,000 that was allocated for the Southport Beach House would be used for.  Orth said the money was in the CIP for 2016.  Billingsley said it was specifically for an emergency doorway and parapet walls.  Fox said, “We’re going to spend $30,000 on a study that will tell us what?”  Orth replied that the study will address the entire park, including the beach house.  Fox wanted to know why the city couldn’t just do it themselves, and the reasons given were that the city workers don’t have the needed expertise, nor does the city have the workers available.

Orth said that the city has consulted and contracted with the SAA Group for the last two to three years.  They’ve done work in Green Bay, Madison, and in Kenosha.  “They have been helping us move along.  I feel comfortable with them.”

Haugaard asked Billingsley to give a synopsis of what the differences were between the Comprehensive Outdoor Recreational Plan (CORP Plan) and the four park master plans.  Billingsley explained that “not every park has a master plan.  There are only four right now, and they are:  Simmons Island, Strawberry Creek, Sunrise Park, and Petzke Park.”  (If you’d like to review these master plans, click here:  2011 Park Master Plans.)  She continued, “The CORP Plan looks at the city’s population, its demographics, density, etc.  There is not that much detail in it.  Having a CORP Plan allows us to apply for Department of Natural Resources (DNR) stewardship funds.  It looks at the number of soccer fields and bike paths needed, etc.  It serves as a guide.  The master plans focus on specific areas.  It gets community and neighborhood involvement, just on a specific park.  The meetings take into consideration the peoples’ interests, and it refines the developments.  The final one includes budget dollar development, and the phase-in of the work.  Creating a master plan for Southport Park moves it up in the schedule.”

Lou Rugani reminded the group of about thirty people that the building has “aesthetics and architectural features that have not been respected over the years.  The exterior is different from the interior.  It’s pure art deco ’35 style.  The inside needs a good cleaning.”  He offered other suggestions, such as wall sconces, furniture, the stage mural, and the chandelier in the lobby.  “I have a chandelier deco that I’ll donate.  The exterior is threatening.  It looks like an American Motors warehouse.”  He suggested proper lighting and landscaping.

Joan Wilk said that the reason there were only three pages in the CORP Plan on the Southport Park was that, at the time that plan was prepared (two years ag0), most people were happy with the park.   Orth added that Southport Park came in as the city’s fourth most favorite park in a survey.  “What we know now brings forth things that need addressing.”

Heller pointed out a fact that she wanted everyone to know.  “The tuckpointing that was done on the west side of the building cost $55,000.  The estimate of $1.7 million is for the other three sides of the building.  This is one-fourth of the building at one-thirtieth of the cost.”

Alderperson Kevin Mathewson said “the word ‘save’ has been mentioned quite a bit.  Well, we’re not going there with a wrecking ball.  But, when the mayor pre-vetoes resolutions and wants to spend $40,000, it’s no different than a wrecking ball.  This is the reason it’s in the shape it is.”

Alderperson Anthony Kennedy commented on why he was supporting the task order.  “Football season is starting soon.  There are quite a few ways to get to Green Bay, but if a person has a road map and the proper resources, he can find it pretty easily.  We have a motivated group fighting for a cause.  I just hope they’ll be at the meetings to give their input.  I’m sure that the master plan for the Southport Park will have the beach house as its most notable feature.  This is the wise choice.  I don’t think that we should be taking the ‘Nike approach — Just do it!’  That’s very dangerous.  The Nike approach got us mixed bricks, mortar that wasn’t right, etc.  We need to use the resources we have in an effective manner.  We need to be responsible to the history of the building and the long-term survival of the building.  I agree with Chairman Orth, and some of you know that I don’t always agree with Chairman Orth.”

The task order was approved by a vote of 4 to 1 (Mathewson was the sole dissenting voter).

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