Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Skate park design decision on hold

by Lisa Seiser

May 12, 2011

Some skateboarders and BMXers watched and waited quietly and patiently for nearly four hours in the City Council chambers Monday night.

But they will have to wait at least another two weeks before finding out whether there's a possibility that they'll get a new $300,000 skate facility at Dunn Field.

The City Council voted 6-2 to table until May 23 a decision whether to spend up to $30,000 for just the design of a new skate/BMX park.

City officials and City Attorney Dan Draper had questions about the contract with the design firm.

For months, if not years, members of the city's Park Board have discussed creating a new skate park. And, with about 20 skaters and BMXers in the audience Monday night, Park Board President Doug Skates urged the council to move the project forward and approve the design contract.

"I am asking you to move the process forward and get this designed," Skates said. He said the skate park "is not like anything else we have in town."

Alderman Tom Hartz said a new park would be "more maintenance free and manageable." He also said the location will be adjusted which would help resolve some of the problems at the park.

"This gives us a chance at a clean slate and set this all up properly," Hartz said.

If approved, the funding for the design and the park would come from Tax Incremental Financing District 4. The taxes already have been collected. According to the audit, there is nearly $6 million in the TIF fund for projects. More than two years ago, city officials agreed to include the skate park on the priority list of TIF projects and designated up to $550,000 for a new park.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan urged officials to think of this as another park.

"This is a community and parks don't look at color, age, rich or poor," he said. "We have baseball fields and spent money on tennis courts and soccer fields. What are we trying to do for the youth? They need an outlet. Kids have used this park. You should be trying to do what you can for all ages. We are a city and that's what cities do."

Alderman Terry O'Neill, who along with Arleen Krohn, voted against tabling the contract, said he supports fixing the current park, not spending upwards of $300,000 for a new park.

Alderman Frank Marsala said whether or not to spend money on the skate park is a very difficult decision.

"My heart tells me we should do this," Marsala said. "But, on the same hand, this is unnecessary spending during this tough economic time. This would be condoning a major unnecessary expense."

Just weeks ago, Marsala said he voted against borrowing for a new fire truck.

"How can I say no to a fire truck and then yes to a skate park?" he said.

Hartz said he believes it is easy to say "no" all the time."

"Sometimes it is difficult to say yes," he said. "The funds are available and the money is already earmarked. To say at this stage we're not going to do it, not invest in this park is disingenuous."

Skates, who called himself a fiscal conservative when he stepped to microphone, said because the TIF money comes from the entire district, the city makes up 25 percent and thus is "only on the hook for" $80,000.

"To me, this is a no brainer," Skates said. "Think hard about this. All of you have a hard decision to make."

He said a lot of work, thought and effort has gone into moving forward on the skate park.

"This isn't just an empty vehicle," Skates said. "We've loaded up with a lot of thought on this."

But, minutes earlier former aldermen Bill Huntress and Dick Peterson voiced their concerns about several aspects of the skate park.

Both suggested fixing the current skate park using a small percentage of the proposed $300,000. Huntress called skateboarding a hobby and said the citizens don't want to pay for other people's hobbies. He also said the current skate park has been neglected. Peterson said the facility is dangerous in its current condition.

Peterson, who resides in Burlington, but works in Lake Geneva, said he believes 85 percent of the people don't want to pay for a skate park.

"To spend $350,000 to a half million dollars — it seems silly and not a good idea to do that," Huntress said. "Let's take care of what we have and fix it up."

Skates said he appreciated the comments of Peterson and Huntress.

"They have brought up some good points and you always need a counter to make sure you are doing your due diligence," Skates said. "I still feel the pros outweigh the cons."