Skate Park Funding Options: After a complex and prolonged discussion prompted by an unidentified memo sketching out the skate park design and construction process, the council approved both the Parks and Recreation Board’s allocation of $30,000 from the park fund and $30,000 from the general fund for the construction. A number of people addressed the council prior to the vote, including members of the skateboard coalition. Rob Hardy, a supportive citizen, called attention to a city council document from 1989 (which he found by searching the city’s new website) referring to placing a skate park in Babcock Park. Dimitry Pitzavas, of Basil’s Restaurant, mentioning the long-standing relationship with the Key when it was located next door and the work of the coalition, pledged to contribute $500.00 toward the new skate park.
Councilor Jessica Peterson White said she wanted the project to move at a “faster clip” and that the memo wasn’t clear on where responsibility for making this happen lies. City Administrator Tim Madigan explained that he had prepared the document in response to questions about the process. In answer to Councilor Rhonda Pownell, City Engineer Joe Stapf said it doesn’t seem like a complicated project and the construction itself wouldn’t take more than six weeks to finish. The project development stage is complex because of the number of groups involved.
Councilor David DeLong was critical of the process, suggesting that the funding should be allocated after the cost is known. Mayor Dana Graham appeared to agree, saying they could approve the PRAB request and then see what is needed later, and that he was willing to be “flexible on the back side.”
The final motion to approve funding also stated that the PRAB would be the final driver of the project, which must be completed in 2013. Drew Voegele, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow at the Key, mentioned during the break that he will meet the following day with the engineering staff to show them the draft of the new plaza which has been designed collaboratively with skate boarders and Charlie Hussman, who has been involved with the skate park movement here for years. This will initiate the city’s work as well as being crucial for the soon-to-be undertaken fundraising, which several community members have volunteered to assist.
Convention and Visitors Bureau Budget: The council had a long and complex discussion of this item. At a work session earlier this year, the CVB presented for approval the 2013 budget, but instead, the majority of the meeting was taken up with a presentation of the work plan. At that time, the council asked that there be a policy on how the CVB fund balance would be used, a commitment to tourism stakeholder membership on the bureau and that the bylaws be revised.
Tonight, several councilors had questions about items in the budget, but there was no one from the CVB to respond. Several motions were offered and defeated, including one which the mayor ruled out of order, to have the CVB be appointed by the mayor and that members should not overlap with the chamber board. Councilor Suzy Nakasian, who represents the council on the CVB, asked whether the board could continue to operate without the budget in order to give the council time to address policy issues. She received no answer. Councilor DeLong objected to the “micromanagement’ of the CVB.
It was the opinion of City Attorney Chris Hood that they could approve the budget and change the contract or conditions of the contract in the future. At 10:55, the council finally approved a motion to approve the budget. That approval is conditioned on the revising the bylaws to include stakeholders’ representatives, the creating of a fund balance policy and submitting these to the council by May 20, 2013. In addition, the city attorney will revise the outdated contract between the city and the chamber of commerce as well as the ordinance code by May 28, 2013.
2013 Street Improvements: Responding to residents’ objections to putting sidewalks on the east side of Maple Street, Councilors David Ludescher and Delong and Mayor Graham voted against the project. Because of state law requiring a supermajority (6) for approval, the resolution to move all the street improvements forward failed. In spite of arguments that the city has “a stack of policies” supporting the sidewalk, as Councilor Peterson noted, Councilor Ludescher said he would not support the project with the sidewalks. “Citizens know better than we do what they want.” The mayor agreed, saying there are some other things they can do to slow down the traffic.
Authorization of Plans for Pool Concession Stand: There was an extended discussion about this proposal. Councilor Nakasian suggested that a mobile food truck be created instead so that it could be used all year round and assure better financial payback. PRAB member David Hvistendahl responded that they had looked into this but did not want to get into the food service business. Councilor DeLong said he would support it, but would like to see a business plan in comparison with that of the arena. There was a unanimous vote to include windows obvious to the public on the street side so that items could be sold outside the pool.
Other Agenda Items: Because of the length of the meeting, the council did not take up a two ordinances (relating to board and commission term limits and taxi service), approval of their Rules of Business or their Final 2013 City Council Meeting Schedule.
Comment: What to say about this long, complicated meeting? Several factors might explain the length and dynamics. Lack of clarity in process is understandable, if unfortunate, in the skate park issue. Mr. Madigan’s memo was not helpful, partly because it was not identified, and partly because of perceived vagueness. There were definitely different philosophies in play in the case of the sidewalk issue, with some members supporting policy and others favoring public sentiment. In this observer’s opinion, the CVB budget matter suffered because the council never did explicitly address the revision of their relationship with the CVB as was discussed late last year prior to taking up funding.
How all of this is a reflection of the DISC analysis the council underwent at their retreat could be a lively topic of discussion.