Small crowd, tough questions at last referendum meeting

City seeks to borrow $1.85M for parks

Leader Photo by Tim Ryan Park and Recreation Director Matt Hendricks answers audience questions Wednesday at the last in a series of open house meetings on a park improvements plan that will be on the April 4 ballot. The referendum will gauge community support for an additional $1.85 million in borrowing.

Only a half-dozen people showed up for the city’s last open house meeting Wednesday on proposed borrowing for park improvements that will go before voters next month, but they came armed with some tough questions about the plan’s possible impact.

The advisory referendum on the April 4 ballot will ask whether the city should borrow additional money for development of the Franklin and Smalley parks and a splash pad to replace the kiddie pool at Memorial Park.

The referendum question will ask residents whether the city should borrow up to $1.85 million for the projects.

The 20-year loan would mean an estimated annual tax increase of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or $25 for a $100,000 home.

At Franklin Park, the improvements would include an amphitheater for music, movies and community events; public restrooms, and pavilion space available for public rental; a water fountain with benches and trees for visual interest; parking, electrical, landscaping and infrastructure to accommodate community events; walkways, picnic tables and benches; and space for a future playground.

At Smalley Park, plans call for a park pavilion with restroom facilities and a rentable picnic shelter; a canoe and kayak launch; boat landings and boat slips; improved parking, lighting and security; walking trails that connect all of the major park features; trees and other native plantings, including native plantings along the waterway to deter geese; and continued revitalization of the beach and the improvement of beach amenities.

The referendum package would also include replacement of the wading pool at Memorial Park with a splash pad, basically a playground with water features.

Much of the discussion at Wednesday’s meeting centered on plans for Franklin Park.

Some residents felt proposed parking stalls around the edges of the park could worsen safety concerns along Division Street, which they said was already seeing increasing traffic from motorists looking to avoid the stoplights on Main Street.

Park and Recreation Director Matt Hendricks said that was an issue that would get a closer look if the referendum passes and the Common Council approves going forward with the project.

The cost of future maintenance was also raised but, Hendricks said, existing staff and summer interns would be able to handle those chores without any additional hiring.

The cost of operating the splash pad was also brought up, considering it would require running water as opposed to the standing water at the wading pool.

Hendricks said the splash pad would run through a system that re-uses the water and would likely operate on a push-button basis rather than have water constantly flowing.

There were also concerns about supervision at the splash pad given that it could draw potentially rowdy teenagers.

Though the open house sessions have wrapped up, those with questions can still contact the parks and recreation department for more information at 715-526-6171.

The department typically has a capital improvements budget of $250,000 a year, meaning it could take about eight years to accomplish the proposed projects if none of that money were to be spent on any other park improvements.

The additional borrowing would allow the improvements to be made within about two years, though the actual work would probably not get underway until next year, Hendricks said.

Even if the referendum is approved by voters, it will be up to the Shawano Common Council to approve the borrowing.

The parks and recreation department would also continue to pursue grant money, Hendricks said, to cut some of the costs.