Strawberry Creek Park not in CIP
At tonight’s Board of Park Commissioners meeting, reviewing the Park Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), Alderperson Kevin Mathewson asked a question about Strawberry Creek Park. Apparently, the line item for that park is now $0. Mathewson wanted to know why. Alderperson David Bogdala also spoke on this issue. He said that it was included in the 2012 – 2016 CIP, the line item for 2013 being $332,817. Bogdala wanted an answer from administration. He was hoping it was a mistake.
Mayor Keith Bosman said that, due to the wetland issues, extra funds were designated for the Southport Beach House, and certain other projects had to be moved down the road, and others had to be taken out altogether. Bogdala said that he anticipated that response from the mayor.
Bogdala was the alderperson of that district, but now with the redistricting, Alderperson Jesse Downing is now their representative. Bogdala said that Downing fully supports the restoration, and he also said that Shelly Billingsley, the city’s director of engineering, and her staff was busy resolving the wetland mitigation issue. He also said that he and the other alderpersons are receiving bi-weekly updates about the issue. “But, to punt the Strawberry Creek Park out of the CIP entirely is playing politics. We all know why it was taken out. Strawberry Creek and the citizens of Kenosha are not asking for additional money. Grants and park impact fees will be used. Pushing it off would have been okay. This is a five-year planning document. But, to have it nowhere in here is a slap in the face to all who are living there and all who enjoy the parks.”
Bogdala urged the commissioners to restore the $533,981 in the 2013 CIP. Bogdala referenced the Board of Park Commissioners meeting on April 27, 2011, in which it was stated by the chairman that Strawberry Creek was a priority. He urged quick movement on the project.
Mathewson said that “it’s disheartening to me. Don’t we have a Strawberry Creek Master Plan completed?” Chairman Michael Orth said that it was. Mathewson further commented, “When the public demands things like restoring the Southport Beach House and a fully-accessible playground, feelings get hurt, money gets moved around. It’s not right. We need to stop doing that.” He made a motion to restore it, and Alderperson Anthony Kennedy seconded the motion for discussion purposes.
Kennedy wanted to know what the impact on the CIP would be if Mathewson’s motion were to go through. Carol Stancato, the city’s finance director, didn’t know. Frank Pacetti, the city administrator, said that there is outside funding available in the amount of $402,200, with a 50% cost-share. Matching funds are needed, though. Bogdala said that the 2011 CIP had $332,871 in it from park fees. Billingsley said that there is a total of $201,110 in funds from the state. Pacetti said that $332,000 was in the prior year’s plan, and that was cut from future years.
Mathewson wanted to know when they could expect a resolution on the flood plain issue. Billingsley said that they are currently working on this with the current developer. The information is coming in the next week or so. Orth said that, as it relates to homes, the city bought the 29-acre parcel in 2008. A portion is now not developable. They need to get the houses out of the flood plain.
Bogdala continued. “The reason that the master plan was completed was so that we could apply for grants. We have two: the trail development grant, and the stewardship grant. Yes, they both require matching. But, this should be on the priority list as discussed last summer. Yes, there are some unknowns.”
Kennedy withdrew his second. He wants to hear again from the Finance Committee and the Common Council as a whole. He’s not comfortable with a decision now. The motion failed for lack of a second.
Bogdala said that this was a planning document for this committee. “Not to take action on planning for the park is a slap in the face to those who have paid impact fees. We have a master park plan, now it’s not in the CIP. You see items in the CIP, and then tomorrow, they may not be there.” He urged adding a line item here for Parks. Kennedy said that, yes, we give the recommendation to the Common Council, but it’s not set in stone. He stated that he’s willing to support it, but wants the information. “Don’t sit there and smirk. I am willing to work with you,” he said to Bogdala.
The next item that Mathewson questioned was the $750,000 for Simmons Field. Mathewson wanted to know where the funding was coming from. He said that he thought that none of the money was supposed to come from the taxpayers. The mayor was confused on where the money was coming from. Pacetti said that $80,000 is coming from the insurance settlement from the Alford fire, rental fees from the cell tower, and park impact fees from Simmons Field. Mathewson made a motion to withdraw the $750,000 from the CIP, but that motion failed due to lack of a second. Bogdala wanted to know if a master plan was done for that area, and the answer that came from Orth was no.
At the end of the meeting, Bogdala said that “the budget process is an absolute travesty.” He said that he has battled people in the room on issues in the past, but he never took it personally. “But, this one I am taking personally. Downing would agree with me.” He stated that he and Downing would schedule a meeting with the residents of the district and invite all of them there to explain to them why the funding was removed. “I have been a penny pincher in the past, but not on parks. This is the peoples’ way of life. Put it in the CIP, and put a dollar in. It’s just politics. It’s a sad say.”
Kennedy said that he voted to increase the acreage of the park, and that he was offended by Bogdala’s comment that something was taken away. He did not take away funding. “The people of Strawberry Creek deserve it. It will be a great park. I’m not worried about it. It’s important. It will happen.” Mathewson said that he was fairly disappointed by the committee’s “rubber stamping.”
Orth wanted everyone to understand that there is a difference between the Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (CORP) and the CIP. They are different documents. “So, something disappears from the CIP. The Forest Park park is off the charts, too. But, it will be completed in time. We’ve delayed the improvements of Simmons Island Park. There are larger priorities, emergencies that come up, in the park planning process. We’ll have to go back to the master plan for Strawberry Creek Park. If there is a way to move up the project, we will. The community wants a handicapped accessible park. No plan is in place yet. A bond issuance will need to be made, planning documents, interest rates. We can’t have a CIP that bounces up and down. Parks has challenges. Bringing new parks on line will cost more to maintain every year. As we improve the parks, we must also be aware that we will have increased costs.”
The Park CIP requests for 2013 to 2017 was approved by the commissioners by a vote of 4 to 1 (Mathewson was the sole dissenting voter).