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New city skate park on horizon



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Artists renderings of the proposed skate park.

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March 14, 2012 | 08:39 AM
They stepped one after another to the microphone in the City Hall Council Chambers Monday night, nearly all voicing their support for building a new wheel-friendly skateboard park.

Minutes later, local skaters and BMXers of all ages were smiling and clapping as their longtime dream of having a new skate park became closer to reality.

The City Council voted 6-2 to award a bid for $448,000 to Scherer Construction to build the state-of-the-art concrete park at Dunn Field, just south of Eastview Elementary School.

Work on the new skate park is expected to start in the next couple of weeks and be completed in early summer.

Money for the project will come from already-collected Tax Incremental Financing District funds. A few years ago, the city budgeted $515,000 for a skate park. If the project stays within the bid amount, the total spent on the skate park will be $478,000.

"This has been a project long in the making," Second District Alderman Al Kupsik said. "A lot of thought has been put into this and a lot of people have supported this."

Park Commissioner Doug Skates said he was pleased a local contractor will perform the work.

"We had hoped to have local contractors and my fear was that it looked so specialized to build," Skates said. "It will be a majority of local contractors and we couldn't ask for better."

Skates also said work has been ongoing regarding the plans for the skate park for quite some time and added that he has heard mostly positive feedback on the efforts to build the skate park.

"This is going to be a great place for kids to go," Skates said. "It's a destination even in the shape the current skate park is in. It is one of the most active parks we have. Month after month, day after day, the kid are out there. It is used a lot, 20 or 30 kids at a time. It is just going to be good."

First District Alderman Todd Krause was quick to support the park.

"It is a great sport and obviously one of the top sports," Krause said. "It is just one more offering we can have in the city. We need to support the youth. Get them out instead of sitting on a couch and eating Cheetos."

Krause called the Park Commission's effort regarding its work on the skate park as diligent.

"This is a great design and a great addition to the city," he said. "It will bring revenue to the city and will be a place where kids from other areas like Milwaukee and Chicago will come here. It is going to be an exciting endeavor. It is a lot of money, but it is a project that is well worth it and I am excited about it."

Second District Alderman Tom Hartz said the fact is the money is in the TIF account for the skate park and it would be money well spent.

"The current park is sort of a sad statement of what we think of our kids," Hartz said. "We have relegated them to the back and enclosed them in a chain link fence. The way to deal with all our citizens is to have everyone feel included whether they skate, golf, walk or watch TV. We have heard there aren't problems out there. This is a great opportunity to look forward and something that people didn't imagine. We are doing something people didn't think was possible. This required some vision and the kids' involvement in this."

Although Fourth District Alderman Frank Marsala has voiced some concern about the TIF spending and nixing other large expenditures, he said he is in favor of this one.

"I started listening to people and it is a beautiful project," he said. "This is a park, not just a skate park. All the parks and recreation, these are things we provide for recreation and are used to draw people here. I think this is a worthwhile project and plan for the city and worthwhile spending."

The matter wasn't without some dispute and disagreement.

Fourth District Alderman Terry O'Neill, who along with Third District Alderman Bill Mott, voted against the bid, reminded council members the cost of the project. He said he has a problem with the idea that the purpose of government is to entertain.

"People don't take care of stuff because it is not theirs," O'Neill said. "If people were paying for this, they would take care of it and it would be different. This is going to be free. We as City Council members are looked at to supply entertainment for people. We shouldn't be building a golf course or a skate park. To me it is not the purpose of city government to entertain."

Mott said he was in favor of the park, but had too many unanswered questions, including concerns about security and maintenance. He said he hasn't received information on those issues. He said he also would like to see lights at the park like those at Veteran's Park.

"Personally, I like the concept and want this to happen," Mott said. "But I have reservations."

Former alderman Bill Huntress also voiced during the public comments portion of the meeting his opposition to the skate park, calling it a hobby.

"It is hard to understand in this day and age the government would spend this much for someone's hobby," he said. "It was mismanaged and overrun by older kids before. I still haven't heard any explanations how that's going to change with the new one."

He also said the land the new park will be built on is "very sensitive," and will cause problems. He predicted it to be a "fiasco" to build and will result in overruns.

Skates said the facility is in a different location that will ensure a better visual sightline from the road and parking lot, which is expected to improve safety and security.

"We have gone from A to Z to try to make every improvement for 5, 10, 20 years and beyond," Skates said. "We have a different mood and these kids have had a chance to interact with the police and the council members. It has been a good thing and now we have an opportunity with the new park to start things off differently."

Skates said despite comments from others at the meeting who said there were alcohol and drugs at the skate park, he said the facility is in much better shape recently.

"I just think the attitude is better down there all around," Skates said.

Hartz said there's a misconception by some about skateboarders.

"For some reason, kids who ride skateboards or scooters are thought of as vandals," he said. "I don't know why that is a connection. We have had vandalism at all our parks, including graffiti, Flatiron Park has had its share of problems, Seminary Park too. Skateboarders aren't at those parks. It is a sad fact of life, but it is not the kids who are skateboarders causing the trouble."

City Administrator Dennis Jordan said the city will deal with any problems with the park as they arise. Previous discussions by the Park Commission included the possibility of video cameras being installed at the park as well as lights.

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