Again, Southport beach house resolution gets sent back to committee
At tonight’s Common Council meeting, the resolution regarding the Southport Beach House was referred back to the Parks Commission again. Immediately after the Council returned from a six-minute recess, Alderperson Steve Bostrom distributed copies of the latest revision of the resolution calling for citizen involvement and requesting the mayor to put money in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Co-sponsors to the resolution were Alderpersons David Bogdala, G. John Ruffolo, Kevin Mathewson, and Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy was commended for the changes he made to the original document. Bostrom had hoped to vote on the resolution tonight. “The Parks Commission has had plenty of opportunities to make their comments known,” said Bostrom. “The maintenance on that building has been deferred far too long.” No specific dollar amount or time line was included in the resolution.
Bostrom’s comment was that “people made the motion to refer the resolution to Parks and they didn’t even read it.”
Alderperson Jan Michalski didn’t understand why he had been added as a co-sponsor on August 15th and then removed on August 29th.
During the Citizens’ Comments portion of the meeting, Dr. Margaret Heller told the Council that various classes are being held at the beach house on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:00 am to 11:30 am. These classes include yoga, meditation, and stretching. Another one for moms will be added soon. She had urged the Council members to vote for the resolution so that the bidding process could begin. “The numbers we’re seeing are based on the Engberg Anderson study, and these are inflated. $1.7 million for brickwork and tuckpointing is inflated. We want to know what the actual cost is.”
Tod Hersted, a resident since 1962, said that he has been a contractor for 26 years, and he, too, had “sticker shock” when he saw the numbers that had been published in the paper. “With some good value engineering, and some good competitive bids, these numbers should go down,” he said.
Alderperson Daniel Prozanski said that this issue belongs to the Parks Commission. “The Southport Beach House is part of the Southport Park. It is a park. It’s part of Parks. It makes sense. It’s a park building. To circumvent Parks doesn’t make sense. It’s part of the master plan. It’s the process we use. Why are we doing it differently? This is where it belongs,” he said.
Alderperson David Bogdala wanted to know when it would be returned to this body (the Common Council). It’s up to the Parks Commission to establish a date. “It’s shameful,” he said, “to call the question in the midst of the discussion. It’s been kicked around. Take certain aldermen off and put them on just to get the resolution passed. It’s fine. What’s wrong with saying the dollars are to be added to the 2013 CIP? Why is this so controversial? Why won’t anyone vote on it?”
Kennedy urged the Council to vote down the referral to Parks, take the vote here, and move forward. He wanted to “end the discussion on who supports this and who doesn’t, and move to the more substantive discussion of how do we do this. A referral to committee keeps that discussion of who supports it and who doesn’t alive. That rhetoric continues to divide us.” The changes provide a framework of starting citizen involvement by resolving “that the Parks Department, administration, and the Common Council would cooperate to establish a nine-member citizens group named ‘Friends of the Southport Beach House.’ The Friends of the Southport Beach House mission would be to support the historical preservation, to ensure proper restoration, to implement a repurposing of the Southport Beach House, to focus awareness, to gather community support, to foster partnerships and to have a voice in the continuous increased utilization of this Lake Front Landmark.
One of the nine members would be the alderperson of the district in which Southport Park is located, one would be a commissioner from the Board of Park Commissioners, and one would be a liaison and support services person provided by the city of Kenosha’s Parks Department. These members would be appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the Common Council.
Alderperson Kevin Mathewson apologized to the chairmen of the committees that the resolution didn’t go to. “Any vote to go to Parks is basically a no vote,” he said. He urged the Council to vote no on the deferral and yes on the resolution.
Alderperson G. John Ruffolo said that the whole Park Commission was here tonight. “We are all in agreement to save and repair the building. We’ve hashed this out for weeks. We all got the resolution in our e-mail. You’re either for it or you’re not. If not, speak up. This is just a resolution, an opinion of the Council. Why can’t we debate it here? What are you afraid of?”
Prozanski gave the reason for the referral, and that is because there’s a process. The CIP comes out on October 1st, the first Monday in October. This resolution bypassed the Parks Commission. “Those five people deserve to review it,” he said. He asked the city administrator, Frank Pacetti, if the resolution were to pass tonight, will the repairs get done any faster? Pacetti said no. “No work will be done until this body places the money in the CIP.” Prozanski continued further, “Is the building in imminent danger of collapsing?” Again, the answer Pacetti gave was no. “Have there been any cancelled bookings?” Again, the answer was no. “If you really wanted to save the building, you would ask for a CIP amendment today. Instead, you bring this piece of paper forward without going through the proper process, and you hold it out like it’s a flag or a badge of honor.” Prozanski felt that the referral was in order, and that it was the best course of business. “The Parks Commission can have citizen involvement,” he said.
Council president Eric Haugaard voiced his concern and hope that the resolution “doesn’t get stranded in Parks until after the CIP submission. I hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Bostrom said that it was not his intention to do an end around the commission or aldermen. “We’ve voted on resolutions that directed Madison, and they didn’t go before the Legislative Committee first,” he said. “This is a load of crap. We’ve fiddle-farted around with this for a month. There have been a lot of changes, and a lot of involvement. Let’s put the crap aside and vote on it. If you believe firmly in the process, then vote no.”
Alderperson Keith Rosenberg said that he liked the changes. He also said that he surveyed his constituents, and they had lots of questions like, “Can we afford it? How much in 2013?” “Yes, I’d like to see it saved, but at what cost? I’m their voice.”
Bogdala answered Rosenberg’s question. “No one really knows. There is no specific dollar amount, just some dollar amount. We’ll find out in the CIP. Hopefully, it passes with strong support. The mayor works it out. Then, the CIP process is that changes are made. This is an opinion of the Common Council. We’ve taken opinions of the Council on everything. This has been laid out methodically. Nothing contradicts the steps.” By December 20, 2012, the necessary emergency repair activity would be completed. The CIP dollars don’t come to fruition until January. In March, 2013, the bid process would be completed. “We’ve had a resolution to merge city departments. We are all in favor of saving it. Vote yes,” he urged.
Alderperson Michael Orth, who is the chairman of the Parks Commission, said that the Parks Commission is established by state law. “It’s an independent body politic. It has jurisdiction over parks; the Common Council doesn’t. It’s like the Library Board. We chime in and send them money, but they are the ones that make the decisions on what to do with the money.”
“The budget process has already started,” Orth said. “This gives us more time to digest the information. The start of the budget process was moved up to October 1st. We have some aldermen who have decided they should be mayor and direct administration. The mayor presents the budget and the CIP. Don’t jump the gun,” he urged his colleagues.
“The citizens of the city wanted us to move up the plan, and we did, and we are,” he continued. “This shifts the ten-year program. We are working to incorporate the plan together. We have a sense of where we’re going with this. The development of the requests for bid will not be easy. It’s a very complex issue. It’s more than just the roof and the brick. It’s the drainage issue, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) requirements because it’s part of a lake bed. It will take a lot of people’s effort to get it right.”
Orth said, “Someone said that we’ve been cordial to each other. No. Someone requests a copy of that, and the answer is no. Get it from the clerk’s office. People are not working together; they’re tearing each other apart. You should read through the e-mails. People cussing at each other. We are not looking at this flippantly. We want this to be fair and right, and we want to go through the government process. There is an order to this. We are not the mayor; we don’t decide administrative issues. If we have 17 mayors in this town, we’re in trouble.”
Kennedy read through the parts starting with “Therefore, be it resolved. Given the historical significance of the Southport Beach House, the city of Kenosha Common Council respectfully requests that city of Kenosha administration allocate capital improvement funds in the 2013 CIP for the property’s renovation and rehabilitation reflective of the Southport Park Master Plan.”
“At this point, we’re asking for support, not money. We’re not saying it can’t go to Parks. This is the opinion of the Common Council,” said Kennedy. He wants to tie the results of the study into this. “It was not my intention to bypass my own committee. I just wanted to take the temperature of this committee right now.”
Alderperson Scott Gordon felt that an end around was attempted. He talked about being villified on Facebook no matter what is done here. “It makes me want to puke reading some of the crap on there,” he said. “Let’s refer it to Parks, and start over again.”
Prozanski said that the common theme he keeps hearing is that this is the “opinion of Council. The opinion may be to go to Parks on referral. The people want the building and the park; they don’t care about the process. That’s a legitimate possibility.”
Alderperson Patrick Juliana wanted to know where the dollars would come from. “The process is here. I’m voting against because I’m against the process. Let the budget process do what it’s supposed to.”
Again, Bogdala brought up the issue he’s brought up in the past. “People have told me it was too late when I brought up the 0% tax increase last year. Well, I’m doing it earlier. I’m asking administration to do it earlier; it’s not too late.” Bogdala stated that “we’re going to lose. I accept that this will be sent back. Can we be given a guarantee that it will come back to us in two weeks?” The mayor shook his head no. Prozanski would not give a definite timeframe. Bogdala asked Orth if it would be on the next Parks Commission agenda next Monday, and Orth said that it would. But, again, Orth would not guarantee that it would be back on the Council floor in 30 days. “I hope so,” he said. “We will work on it as a committee.”
The motion to refer it back to the Parks Commission was approved by a vote of 10 to 6. Alderpersons voting against were Michalski, Ruffolo, Mathewson, Kennedy, Bostrom, and Bogdala.
To read prior articles having to do with this issue, click here: