Simmons Field lease is approved

Northwoods_League_LogoThe topic of the Simmons Athletic Field lease between the city, the Board of Park Commissioners, and Baseball Like It Oughta Be, LLC, and the Northwoods League, Inc., was on the agendas of both the Finance Committee and the Common Council meetings tonight.  Vern Stenman and Conor Caloia were the two representatives from the Northwoods League present at both meetings to answer questions.

Alderperson David Bogdala said that he was in attendance at the public meeting held last Tuesday.  To read the article on that meeting, click here:  “Simmons Field Meeting.”  Bogdala made several amendments to the lease, including inserting a security deposit performance bond, a renaming clause, language regarding the sale of alcohol and wine beverages, fireworks displays, and handicapped access.   He said, “If these are not detailed, written in the contract, we’ll have problems down the road.”  Bogdala’s motion to amend the lease at the Finance Committee failed for lack of a second.

Alderperson Tod Ohnstad made a motion to approve the contract as is.  Bodgala’s comments were that “he was hopeful, but this was not unexpected.”  He felt that there were some definite issues with the current contract.

Chairman of the Finance Committee and Alderperson Daniel Prozanski said that he received the lease via e-mail last week with the 42-page document attached.  The city attorney reviewed the lease, and it was negotiated with the two representatives from the Northwoods League.  Prozanski said that he got his questions answered.  “Now, at the 11th hour, with 59 minutes to spare, we get another lease to review, to protect the citizens of the city.”  Bogdala said that, “As long as I sit on this committee, I will be reviewing and providing feedback on any contract/lease the city is involved in.  We’re not done til we’re done with it.  This lease requires Parks, Finance, and Common Council approval.  The changes I’m proposing have to do with breach of contract, legal ramifications, and gaps that are open to interpretation.”  Prozanski’s issue was that he was just given Bogdala’s document tonight.  “If my colleague wants consideration, then I need time to consider it.  I’m satisfied with the document, that the city’s interests are protected,” he said.

Prozanski asked Frank Pacetti, the city administrator, was asked to delineate the $1 million in improvements.  His reply was that the team would be spending $250,000 on capital improvements to the field, and the city would be contributing $750,000.  The sources for the city’s money were in the form of rent paid to the city ($30,000/year for 10 years), $300,000, $100,000 in insurance proceeds due to the fire at the Alford Storage Building, and the remaining $350,000 would come from park impact fees from the district, and cell tower revenue.

Prozanski wanted to know how the $300,000 was going to be guaranteed, and assistant city attorney Jon Mulligan replied that, if the work was not completed by May 1, 2014, the city would be under no further obligation to continue with the lease.

Ohnstad said that, “There was no gun to my head.  This was a good proposal.  It was vetted six months ago.  I read it and understood it.  I’m voting for it tonight, and I’m looking forward to seeing a game the year after next.

The vote at the Finance Committee was 5 to 1 for approval, with Bogdala being the sole dissenting voter.

On the Common Council floor, Alderperson Steve Bostrom said several times that he was a big supporter of the baseball project.  He stated that he felt that the Northwoods League was going to be a good operator, and he wanted to see the items spelled out in the lease.  He stated that he was thankful that Bogdala took the time to review and make changes to the lease.

The roll call vote to amend, as presented by Bogdala, however, failed by a vote of 4 to 11.

Bogdala then commenced taking each change individually.  He started with the alcohol sales.  Alderperson Anthony Kennedy called for a point of order, and the city attorney, Ed Antaramian, checked into it.  Kennedy’s point was that individual motions could not be made after the “wholesale” motion was voted down.  Antaramian said it was up to the presiding officer’s discretion.  Alderperson Eric Haugaard was filling in for the mayor tonight, and he allowed it.

Bogdala said that “these were common  sense changes that benefit the taxpayer.  The ball field is located in a neighborhood.  We have alcohol throughout the city.  They do have similar language in other municipalities,” he said.  Bostrom was supportive.  “This is the only way to ensure that these items are covered, is to put them in the lease.  He asked for the Council’s support on this one item, the one having to do with the alcohol sales.  Bogdala’s amendment prohibited alcohol sales after the seventh inning, or after 9 pm, whichever came first.  After Alderperson Scott Gordon said that he had a problem with the 9 pm time frame due to possibly the holding of other events before a baseball game, Bogdala was willing to remove that stipulation from his amendment.

Stenman said that in Madison, they were allowed to sell alcohol through the end of the game.  They worked with the Alcohol License Review Committee in Madison, and he also said that it’s never been a part of the lease agreement.  A question was raised about Wisconsin Rapids’ end time, and Mulligan said that he didn’t know off the top of his head.  He’d have to go back and review the other sixteen lease agreements.

Alderperson Scott Gordon wanted to know if there were serious issues with the team, does the Licensing & Permit Committee have the ability to call the owners and pull their permit, and the answer was yes.

The roll call vote on Bogdala’s amendment failed by a vote of 7 to 8.  Prozanski then called for the question, thereby ending the debate.  That vote was 10 to 5.  Those voting no were Alderpersons Eric Haugaard, Kevin Mathewson, Steve Bostrom, Jesse Downing, and David Bogdala.

The vote on the item, as presented by the city then was approved by a vote of 12 to 3.  Those voting against were Alderpersons Mathewson, Downing, and Bogdala.

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