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June 03, 2014 | 03:13 PM
BLOOMFIELD — Don’t get her wrong, village Trustee Sue Bernstein believes all the community parks are important.

But in emails last week, she expressed her concerns about the proposed $194,000 McKay Park improvement project, which calls for building an outdoor shelter with restrooms, a split-rail fence and gravel trails on the 13-acre Lake Geneva Highway property.

“The biggest concern I have for the slated improvements to McKay Park is who, or basically, which age group will benefit,” she said. “During my first 12 months as village trustee, all optional discussions for alternative park plans have been blocked.”

On May 5, trustees approved the resolution to adopt the comprehensive outdoor recreation plan. Trustee Gary Grolle abstained from the vote. In an email last week, he said he had little information about the plan at that time.

Last week, trustees were asked to give their opinions of the McKay Park project. Village Trustee Bill Holder did not provide a response to the Regional News by press time.

In a May 15 interview, Village President Ken Monroe said he feels the project will bring more people to McKay Park. In a May 31 email, Trustee Ken Bauman said he supports the project because it will make McKay Park “a more versatile area,” one that will better accommodate outdoor events.

With her misgivings, why did Bernstein vote in favor of the new comprehensive outdoor plan May 5?

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She said “time was of the essence” to apply for this year’s stewardship grant from the state’s Department of Natural Resources. If approved, the DNR grant will give Bloomfield $97,000 toward the project. A story about the grant and how the village plans to pay for the rest of the project is to the left on this page.

“With additional engineering and filing fees already paid, now over $20,000, and knowing I was in favor of certain line items, I voted to go forward with the grant request to the DNR,” said Bernstein.

On the phone Monday, Monroe said the village did not spend $20,000. A total of $17,410 was paid to Clark Dietz Engineers, of Kenosha, village Clerk-Treasurer Cindy Howard said on the phone Monday.

In September 2013, Monroe said Clark Dietz was hired to complete the requirements to secure the grant. That includes the comprehensive plan, a needs study, a McKay Park master plan and the grant application.

As for discussions being blocked, Monroe said Monday that Bernstein can have the board address her alternative park ideas by having them posted on a meeting agenda. Then, “we can address it and go from there.”

Other ideas

Bernstein said there are other recreational opportunities near McKay Park.

“We have pristine ball fields behind Star Center School. We also have lovely early childhood playground equipment (there). The pristine Four Season Park, with acres of hills and beautiful vistas and shelters, is three minutes north of McKay Park on Highway H.”

She shared several ideas she has for McKay Park.

“I believe our 8- to 15-year-olds would love a dirt bike track, or a racing bike surface, and a large hill for kids to toboggan, a paved running track and an area for ice skating for all ages, and perhaps a doggie park.”

She said these ideas “are far less expensive than putting in almost $200,000” for the proposed project.

Bernstein also questions how useful the current plan will be.

“The seniors are not going to tramp through the heavy growth and fight the mosquitoes. The adults might use the path, but compared to the Four Season Park (off Highway H), McKay Park falls far short of that nature preserve. The 8- to 15-year-olds will be out on the streets, looking for a safe and fun place to ride their bikes. … The seniors will still have only limited unsheltered seating by the lake.”

She said if the village doesn’t receive the grant, she would like to pursue alternatives. “I would like to go to our residents and find out what exactly they would like to add to our village.”

Bernstein believes all Bloomfield’s parks are important.

“They bring together people in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. All our parks, large and very small, should be designated, furnished and geared toward use by each age group.”

Grolle and Bauman

Grolle said the board approved applying for the DNR grant at an April 7 meeting. He wasn’t sworn into office until mid-April. Although he abstained from the May 5 vote on the resolution, he shared his thoughts on the McKay project in a May 30 email.

“In concept, I would favor an attractive, nicely-equipped park within the village to provide recreational, educational and environmental amenities not now available within the community.”

Grolle said he would like to be optimistic about the grant.

“I am concerned, however, that unless the amount of the grant equals or exceeds the cost estimates for those improvements, full funding will not be available, at least not within the timetables contemplated by the plan or prior board.

“I would support exploring supplemental private funding, other types of improvements and use of multiple phases (on) the project, but I would hope making any contemplated improvements could be accomplished without the village borrowing any money.”

Bauman said he has no concerns about the project because “past board members and present ones, including committee members, have all spent copious amounts of time and energy” planning the project.

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