Trustees Carolyn Clow and Clair Utter were on the short end of a 6+2 vote by the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Committee to recommend a bid for three park projects be forwarded to the Village Board.
On Monday, July 13, they picked up another vote from Trustee Eric Kryzenske, but it wasn’t enough as the board voted 4-3 to approve a bid of $758,739 by US Vet General Contractors. The projects include improvements at the dog park, an open air shelter at McDaniel Park and a concession stand and bathrooms at McDaniel Park.
Several residents spoke against the bid, citing lack of notice before the vote, a limited parking situation at the park, opposition to what they saw as the eventual sale of alcohol from the concession stand and its competition with nearby businesses, and concerns that costs of two of the three projects are more than what was budgeted.
“As a village, it’s time we stop hiding behind a policy as far as how we notify residents. As residents, we deserve better,” resident Chris “St. Clair told the board. “The residents were not included in the conversation about this contract.”
He and others said they did not know of the discussion and vote until just a few hours before the meeting.
Tom Binger, co-owner of the Green Lantern, said parking is already a nuisance in the neighborhood, citing the park’s popularity and the Lower Yahara River Trail bike path.
“I believe you already have that park pretty well utilized,” he said. “You want to add a concession stand. You don’t’ need to have more stuff going on down there when there’s already limited parking when it’s being used.”
Sherry Blanchar argued that the concession stand is $125,000 over budget, there is no clear purpose on the concession stand will be used, and the noise and congestion in the neighborhood would only worsen with alcohol sold at the concession stand.
“It is not sustainable,” St. Clair said. “There is no study that shows or demonstrates that this actual concession stand can be profitable without the service of alcohol, which is something that has come up multiple times in the past, as not having wanted to be done both by the residents and by the committee during the meeting. This should be a non-starter.”
Bid projects, costs
Village Administrator Matt Schuenke explained the three parts of the bid, noting that the intention of bidding all three projects together was meant to get a better deal from contractors.
Dog park improvements include a shelter, bathrooms, dog washing station, storage area, parking lot and drinking fountain. The open air shelter at McDaniel Park will complement the one that is there now. Finally, the concession stand would replace the existing bathroom facility.
Schuenke said the reasons behind building the concession stand are twofold.
“The first is to create programmable concession stand space as an addition to the existing facility,” he said. “Secondly … the bathrooms need to be brought up to code and ADA compliance.”
Looked at separately, the dog park project cost of $502,491 is $274,991 under budget. However, the open air shelter cost of $96,846 is $61,846 over budget, and the concession stand is $124,587 over budget. Taking all three projects together, according to the successful bid, the projects are $88,557 under what the village allocated last fall.
Schuenke said costs for many public works projects have decreased since last fall when the budget was adopted. He said the concession stand costs are higher than budgeted because the bathroom portion was not part of the budget in the fall.
“Adding the concession stand space, in their mind (parks committee), creates programmable space for the village to exercise its discretion on utilization in the future,” he said. “This could mean anything from a public-private partnership for the use of this space, possible public rental of this space like we do at our other parks, special events that might be held there, village utilization of the space for its own programming.”
As for the open air shelter estimate, he said, “I think we just missed our mark.”
Village President Brad Czebotar agreed.
“These are our best guesses,” he said. “Sometimes you hit them, and sometimes you’re off.”
Arguing over alcohol, budgets
Residents are afraid the new concession stand will lead to sales of alcohol, which they oppose. Clow agreed.
“If you put up a space – sure, we’re voting on a construction project tonight – but if we’re building a space that we know, for the size of the space, cannot be profitable without the sale of alcohol, we are either fools or we are approving the sale of alcohol,” she said.
Village President Brad Czebotar reminded everyone the board was voting on a bid, not the use of the concession stand.
“Much of the conversation we’ve heard today … is beyond the scope of what we’re trying to decide tonight, so let’s focus on the contract itself,” he said.
He acknowledged the concession stand alone was over budget, but because all three are approved or rejected together, it was the overall total that matters.
“If we start picking apart such bids like this, this has never been done before,” Czebotar said. “We, many times, put out bids for road construction and so forth, and different elements of those road construction projects come in above what we had estimated. Then, there are some that come in lower, but we look at it as a total package on what it’s going to cost the village.”
He said if trustees dissect every bid, nothing would ever get done.
Clow said all vendors agreed to bid on the projects ala carte and would honor each project costs even if the projects were split apart.
Utter said he opposed the bid at the parks committee and would do so again at the board level. He said the village would be better off approving the dog park portion and using the other funds to improve other parks in the village.
Trustees Stepahnie Brassington, Mike Flaherty and Justin Rupert joined Czebotar in approving the bid.