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Pavilion proposed

Pavilion proposed Pavilion proposed

Alderman wants plan for downtown park improvements

A proposal to build a performance space in the downtown was met with questions by alderman Mike Bub at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Bub asked what the overall plan was for the area, noting the previous plans he had seen included several million dollars of improvements, something he said was not going to happen. He also questioned what happened to the consultant the city hired to help with the project.

The park committee was seeking approval to hire Ayres Associates for $5,000 to design a pavilion to be built in what is now a parking lot on Whelen Ave. in the downtown. The structure is to include bathrooms, a concession space and a place for small groups to perform.

According to city coordinator Joe Harris, the goal is to have the plan and solicit bids for construction of the pavilion in early 2022. He noted that final design and bids for construction would go through city council for approval. Harris explained that the consultant helped get the park committee going with ideas but when the contract term ended, they did not ask for it to be renewed. Harris explained that any engineering work would be outside of the scope of that original contract.

Bub compared the downtown project to the pool renovation work the city did several years ago. He explained that in that project the committee had an initial design that they brought back to city council for feedback and to make changes. He said many of the changes were incorporated into that design making for a better overall facility.

“What is the design and plan?” Bub asked, expressing concern about spending money on specific projects. He said that while the individual projects are relatively small, the costs quickly add up.

“You spend $25,000 here and $5,000 there, next thing you know you have spent $100,000,” he said.

“What the park committee does is not final,” Harris said, noting anything from the committee comes through the committee of the whole and city council.

“I am struggling with the concept,” Bub said, noting there has not been an updated overall plan that has been shared with council and the city residents. He questioned how putting the proposed structure in the Whelen Ave. parking lot would help improve things for the downtown and raised concern about access to parking.

“I would like to see a whole concept vision before we start allocating money,” Bub said. He noted it is easy to spend $100,000. He also said that others are asking for a larger performance pavilion in the city park, noting the city could go from having no band shells to having two of them.

“Just because it is on a piece of paper doesn’t mean it will get built,” Harris said in defense of getting the engineering work done on the proposed pavilion. He said they are looking at starting with the things that were identified as being needed and that will get used the most.

Mayor Mike Wellner explained the committee is looking at a 30 foot by 90 foot building with concessions, bathrooms and a stage. Wellner defended the choice to focus on redevelopment of the city-owned parking lot on Whelen Ave. as a way to improve the overall downtown. The hope is that as events take place in that area, it will draw more people overall to the downtown as a whole, since people will park on Main Street and elsewhere to attend events there.

According to Harris, the committee includes two downtown business owners who are giving input as to ways to help revitalize the area.

“The idea that people won’t walk anywhere is crazy to me,” Wellner said, noting that if you go to any other city it is common to park and then have to walk to your destination. He described the proposed pavilion as being a starting point for the project and that it would be built upon from year to year.

“The whole thing won’t be done next year,”he said.

Alderman Laura Holmes, who is a city council representative on the park committee said the pavilion is only one part of the overall project noting there are efforts to get a mural painted on the Circle of Faith Building and ways to make it easier to get from Main Street to the area.

Bub said that sounded like phase 1 of the project, but that they still lacked an overall vision of what the goal is for it to be when it is done. He called for something to be put down on paper so that taxpayers could get an updated vision of what is being proposed. He explained that it is easy for people who are on the committees and who work with it to know what they are doing, forgetting that other people don’t know what the plan is.

“We forget to communicate with the taxpayers,” Bub said.

In the end, Bub was the only no vote against the request to hire Ayres for the pavilion engineering. It passed 5-1 with Christine Weix and Greg Knight absent.

In other business, council members:

_ Formally denied an operator’s license for Angela Vesnefsky. During a routine background check done for all license applications, police chief Chad Liske found that she had a disorderly conduct violation from February 16 and had failed to disclose four additional convictions. Under city ordinance, license denials must be done at the council level with Vesnefsky having the right to appeal their decision.

_ Discussed pool usage. More than 12,000 people used the city pool this summer. “I don’t remember us being over 12,000 before,” Bub said. Hansen noted the numbers would have been even higher if the city hadn’t shut the pool down halfway through August. “We lose two great weeks in August,” he said.

Wellner defended closing the pool when they do noting it is a struggle to get and keep staff with high school and college students going back to school. He noted that Wausau closed their pool even earlier than Medford did. City clerk Ashley Lemke said that they would be bringing the pool discussion to an upcoming meeting.

_ Approved referring a preliminary plat for a new subdivision in the city’s northeast corner to the planning commission. This is the formal first step in the process with the commission to meet next week and review the plat before it comes back to council for final approval. The Edgewood Estates project is being developed by Chuck and Linda Gelhaus and is a subdivision of Lot 10 of the Roger’s Addition creating 10 additional residential lots which would come off of Allman Street to the east of Malibu Drive.

_ Approved hiring Ayres Associates to do engineering for a proposed Pep’s Drive Housing Development at a cost of $47,500. The area being proposed for housing is undeveloped industrial park space between Pep’s Drive and the Black River. The scope of the work for Ayres includes platting a new subdivision in the area with plans for roads and other infrastructure.

_ Approved the annual budgets for the city’s enterprise and Tax Incremental District funds. These are budget areas that include the utilities accounts and other non-property tax supported accounts.

The city is moving ahead with plans to develop this area on the south end of Pep’s Drive into residential property. The treeline along the southern edge of the property marks the path of the Black River as it winds southwest of the city. The city hired Ayres Associates to design a subdivision for the area.BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS