Park spending plans split aldermen

Spending ideas split along neighborhood lines at Monday’s City Council budget session.

Some aldermen, who don’t represent the lakefront, suggested cutting spending on lakefront park improvements.

Others suggested more spending on parks away from the lake in areas they do represent.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said he thinks the planned $1.7 million cost for a pedestrian path from Lee to Clark streets along the lake is excessive.

And he voiced fears that the bike path also planned for the lakefront will end up costing even more, because it’s planned to be wider.

He went on to criticize plans for a new bathroom and vending facility at Clark Street Beach, which is intended as a prototype for three others along the waterfront — at a cost of over $1.5 million each.

"I don’t see the sense of doing these projects, and they’re way too expensive," Moran said.

The existing bathroom facilities are not handicap-accessible, and their location away from the beach entrances is said to be inconvenient for patrons increase staffing requirements at the beaches.

Moran said he’d seen very light attendance at community meetings on implementing the lakefront plan, which was adopted by the City Council early this year. "I don’t see demand coming from the citizenry to do these buildings down on the lakefront," he said.

Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, agreed with Moran. "I don’t think we should throw all our [park improvement] eggs in that basket for the next five or six years," she said.

But Alderman Melissa Wynne, whose 3rd Ward includes parts of the lakefront, said that for several years the focus has been on neighborhood parks and nearly three-dozen of those have been redone.

"During that period we really didn’t do anything along the lake, other than dredge and reopen the boat ramp," she said.

Meanwhile, Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, urged moving forward on repeatedly-delayed plans for rebuilding the Robert Crown Recreation Center which adjoins his ward, and Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested improvements to restroom facilities at James Park and moving up the scheduled rehabilitation of another park in her ward, at Brummel Street and Richmond Avenue.

The aldermen took no action on any of the proposals.

They also received a staff report on capital spending which showed a net reduction of $1.2 million in spending planned for next year to a new total of $26 million, based on efforts by the staff to trim spending in light of the troubled economic times.

The aldermen are expected to adopt the capital improvement plan at an upcoming meeting.

The city staff will distribute a proposed full city budget at the end of December, which the council must act on by the end of February.

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