My name is Mike Foster and I was elected by the City Council as the Council President this year. I look forward to the challenge and appreciate the vote of confidence from the other member of the council. I also have the distinction of being your At-Large council member. That means I represent everyone in the City and not just one of the districts. Feel free to reach out to me using my information published on the city website. Today I would like to discuss Sandy Beach in my own words and thoughts.
Sandy Beach is an amazing place for the citizens of Lake Mills and our visitors. The City Council’s consideration of the Sandy Beach reconstruction project started in August of 2015. Every session has been appropriately noticed, open to the public and available for public comment. Initially, the Council wanted to review the Manufactured Home Community (MHC) and the status of the existing infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads in the MHC.
Here is the current state of the MHC. The water main in the MHC is substandard and at the end of its life cycle. There has been numerous water and sewer repairs in the park and the 2001 Sanitary sewer assessment identifies the Sandy Beach basin as having significant inflow and infiltration related to leaking sewer pipes, laterals, manholes and building plumbing. The roadways need to be reconstructed to allow for better emergency vehicle access, resident parking and safer circulation. The site would be regraded to provide better stormwater runoff. Areas would have breaks installed to reduce potential issues with firefighting and emergency vehicle access. Firefighting in the current park would be extremely difficult with existing tree canopy and roadways. Quite a few of the trailers have unapproved permanent structures or improvements that were built without regard to the terms of the MHC leases.
As we looked at the MHC, the Council decided to look at the entire Sandy Beach Park area. Many reasons led the Council to a comprehensive plan to address issues at Sandy Beach. For instance, if we are going to fix the stormwater runoff, we need some place to put it. There currently are no stormwater controls in the MHC, park and parking lot. The new proposal uses the most efficient way to handle the stormwater to capture and filter the impurities from the stormwater before it makes it to the water table or the lake.
The Council looked at the MHC, restaurant and beach and the layouts, we asked our consultants to review the whole park area and tell us what options we have that will make the Sandy Beach complex work better and be a safer environment for everyone. When the assessment came in, we reviewed it in open session, and we liked some ideas and hated other ideas. One item I hated, Cabins. We do not have the need for rental cabins in this park. The cabins were initially added as a potential place for wedding guests to stay if folks held their wedding at the beach. One item I like, is relocating the boat launch. Separating the boat launch from the beach will allow us to have a larger beach area with a place to launch canoes or kayaks inside the beach with the current pier. Relocating the boat launch moves the current car and truck traffic to a segregated location outside of the beach foot traffic. This will eliminate or reduce the potential for injury to kids running between cars and boats to get from the beach to the playground area. While I am not aware of any such accidents at the current boat launch, the odds are against us if we leave it in its current location.
We knew the restaurant building at Sandy Beach was in less than optimal shape even though we had recently put money into it in an effort to keep a dining solution available to the beach patrons and guests, but the repairs to the building were a short term fix. We offered the same contract to the Herings as an option for this year and they declined to renew this year. Much of the equipment inside the structure belonged to the Herings so they removed it and that left us with an empty building that would need ovens, freezers, refrigeration, beverage service, prep stations, and everything else required to bring a restaurant and bar to life. We were in an awkward position. Do we spend dollars to get the building operational and lease it to another restaurateur who may or may not get a few years out of the building or do we use the money to provide something new that is in keeping with the surrounding environment Finding a tenant that would be willing to outlay that much capital for a solution that may only work for a couple of years was a tough task. It was a tough decision for us, but I felt we made a good decision. The Council’s current plant is to replace the building, so keep your eyes and ears open to future Council agendas so we can get community involvement and your ideas.
The last item I wanted to discuss is the presence of significant historic items at the park. While going through this process, part of any project like this is a study to see if we would be damaging anything of an historic nature. The first thing I heard was, “There are mounds in the park!” The initial study was completed, and we found that the “mounds” were merely piles of dirt from past farming or excavation activities and they do not have any significant historic meaning. The archeologists conducting the initial study did find a couple sections of the park that had shards and other items that showed the presence of an ancient indigenous people. Sandy Beach Park was a meeting area where ancient peoples congregated and camped near the beach. The items found dated earlier than the Aztalan sites. The evidence of this civilization and their use of the park were not burial sites, no human remains were found, so the items can be removed, and we plan to provide access and opportunity for an interactive learning solution. That is where we are currently at. We have a few phases that have been identified for the reconstruction of Sandy Beach Park, including the relocation of the boat launch, the expansion of the beach and the addressing the issue surrounding the MHC, but nothing has been approved or set into motion except for the removal of the Sand Bar. We have received the approval for the grant money from the state DNR and federal fish and wildlife grants to move forward with the relocation of the boat launch. The relocation of the boat launch may occur at the end of the year.
I hope this gives you some insight into my thought process. The only agenda I have is to provide a great safe place for our families to call home.