Council mulls park plans

by Jeff Pederson Sheboygan Falls News Editor

Members of the Sheboygan Falls Common Council discussed several issues related to the maintenance, upkeep and future development of the new Westside Park project, during a Property Committee meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Property Committee Chair Peter Weber began the meeting by stating that the city recently applied for a Sheboygan County Stewardship Grant to assist with the cost of grass seeding at Westside Park. The county denied a request from the city to seed a 1¼ mile path around the perimeter of the park property, while giving the city approval to seed 6 interior acres of the park property.

In noting that the county denied the request to seed the path, Weber expressed hesitation about seeding the remaining 6 acres of the property.

“I don’t want us to seed that acreage because we will just have to dig it up at some point down the line when the park moves into the next phase of development,” Weber said. “We might as well give the money back, because I don’t think it would be put to good use.

“It was brought up that maybe we could use the grant to seed the path, but I don’t think that would go over very well, because the county denied that request,” he said.

Weber’s concerns were met with approval by his fellow council members, who agreed that the grant funds should not be used to seed the 6 acre portion of the property. Mayor Randy Meyer noted that the Sheboygan Falls Park Board has initiated seeding of the 1¼ acre trail at a cost of $1,275. Department of Public Works Director Jerry Benzschawel said the Park Board is hoping to spur interest in the park by seeding the path.

“The thought was that the Park Board would seed the walking trail to accommodate winter activities like cross country skiing, snowshoeing and walking,” Benzschawel said. “In doing so, the goal is to get people out on the park property with the idea of the kind of potential the property has to be a park in the future. In turn, maybe those people will be interested enough to donate money to get the next phase of the property going.”

The council also reviewed grass cutting at the park. Meyer stated that the city had recently entered into a verbal agreement with C&G Services to cut the grass on the park property. However, he said the work that took place did not meet the expectations of the city.

“We had an individual offer to cut the grass at the park for $80 per times cut,” Meyer said. “The Park Board made a verbal agreement.

“After it was agreed upon, the individual came back and asked for $200, because the grass was taller than normal for a standard cut,” he said. “I met with Jerry [Benzschawel] and Shad [Tenpas, deputy administrator] and we agreed to come back with an offer of $160, which was accepted.”

Upon further inspection after the grass was cut, Tenpas noted that a large portion of the property was left uncut.

“I went out to check on how the grass cutting went and saw that the portion of the property from the road to the berm was not done at all,” Tenpas said. “When I called to ask about it, I was told that there were too many plants and weeds, so they were unable to cut that portion of the grass. They said they did what they were contracted to do. I didn’t agreed with that.”

Benzschawel said DPW crews counted 45 plants between the portion of the property between the road and berm, while stating that the grass was three times higher than the plants in that area of the park.

“We had one of our part-time employees go out there and cut the grass that hadn’t been cut,” Benzschawel said. “We took care of it that one time, but we aren’t set up to handle that kind of grass cutting on a regular basis. Our equipment is not designed to do that, so we will need to come up with a plan for maintenance.”

Meyer said a formal plan should to be in place for such work agreements in the future.

“We have well-meaning people that want to do this work and have it done right, but we have seen that things can go wrong,” Meyer said. “We need to develop a more formalized plan. I chalk this up as a learning experience and next time we need to get a formal agreement in place in writing, which is drawn up by a city employee.

“These processes, plans and grant writing submissions should come through the Property Committee in the future as well,” he said. “Before this Westside Park project came up, most of the decisions the Park Board made were relatively routine and didn’t really require input or approval from the council. Now with this project, things are more of a challenge. We are all in agreement that seeding those 6 acres would not be the best use of grant money, since it would have to be ripped up at some point. As a result, the Park Board should report to the Council on these requests in the future and all grant requests should come through the Property Committee.”

Alderman Al Mayer indicated that the council should take careful consideration in approving the future maintenance plan for the park.

“In order to get people out to the park, it needs to be aesthetically pleasing,” Mayer said. “That is important now and in the future.”

During the regular Common Council meeting, council members approved an operator license renewal for Lisa Underwood and an operator license application for Abbie Olafson.

Meyer noted that several city residents contacted Alderwoman Cyndi Hartzheim about noise during the recent Sheboygan Falls Lions Club/KPAL Oktoberfest event at River Park.

Meyer said he would be willing to facilitate a meeting with the concerned citizens in the near future.

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