Janesville eyeing Bond Park for skatepark

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Neil Johnson
Monday, July 28, 2014

JANESVILLE—Bond Park on the city's west side could be the location of a new skatepark that has been more than a decade in the making.

The Janesville City Council on Monday approved a proposal from the city's parks and recreation department to dedicate $100,000 in previously borrowed money to build a skatepark that would replace a dilapidated set of tennis courts at the park.  

The plan would hinge on approval of designs and a location for the skatepark by the council and plan commission. To move forward, the city is requiring a formal funding commitment from the ad hoc Janesville Outdoor Skatepark committee, a group that has been trying to get a skatepark built in Janesville for the last 11 years, city sources said. 

The group has raised about $60,000 to fuel construction of a skatepark. 

Bond Park is not the location Janesville Outdoor Skatepark committee Chairman Roger Streich had wanted. Streich says he, residents and members of his group favor the section of Palmer Park south of Palmer Drive because it offers a playground, a wading pool and other amenities a whole family can use. 

Streich reluctantly acknowledged he'd like to see the skatepark come to fruition regardless of the location.  

“There does come a time when you have to agree and accept things in life, and I don't see Palmer Park as being desired by the council,” he said.

In an analysis conducted late in 2013, the city graded Palmer Park among the lowest of eight potential sites for the skatepark. The analysis ranked Bond Park, a 12-acre park north of West Court Street, as the top site.

The Bond Park site ranked highest because it is located out of a floodplain, has available parking and restrooms and it can to be monitored by police on two side streets, according to the analysis.

However, Bond Park is in close proximity to neighbors; houses across the bordering street of North Oak Hill Avenue are about 240 feet from the proposed skatepark, according to the analysis. 

The city gave Palmer Park got a low ranking because it's in a hilly area that would be difficult to grade, and it's near a busy roadway, according to the analysis. 

Cullen Slapak, the city's parks director, told The Gazette the city would need to form a steering committee, which he said could be made of members of the Outdoor Skatepark Committee and others.

Slapak said the steering committee would work on designs with architects and hold meetings with neighbors near Bond Park.    

He said it's feasible construction could move forward in spring 2015, which he said would give the city and a steering committee a chance to tap potential grant sources for additional money.

According to city plans, the city would pour a 20,000-square-foot slab at Bond Park and use metal to build the skatepark's modular equipment.

The city hasn't conducted soil samples at Bond Park. Slapak said it's not clear if a bowl-shaped, in-ground feature the skatepark committee had discussed earlier would work there.

Parks department records show shallow bedrock was present at the park when the city was prepping it to build restrooms, Slapak said.

Streich told the council the skatepark committee wouldn't want to agree to fund construction of a skatepark on a parcel where key designs wouldn't work.

“Any site that is finally agreed upon, I only would recommend to get a skatepark builder in here and evaluate the site to make sure it's viable for construction,” Streich said.

Landfill Finances

The council on Monday also sent the city back to the drawing board on a proposal to keep the municipal landfill open, but pull between $1 million and $1.5 million in landfill debt payments out of the sanitation fund and instead place them in the city's general fund.

The proposal, Operations Director John Whitcomb said, would take the burden off the sanitation fund, which is shrinking under the landfill's debt burden. The recommendation comes at a time when the city is trying to decide whether to close the landfill, sell it or offer it for operation by a private company.

The city also is seeking “flexibility” to set new rules that would modify limits set in 2009 as to how much trash can come into the landfill, where it can come from, and the terms of contracts with private haulers.

Whitcomb showed the council a set of alternate proposals that include keeping the landfill open and raising taxes an average of $27 per person in 2015 years general fund—or increasing the resident trash pickup fee $40 in 2015.

The tax increase would float between $27 and $30 over the bulk of the next decade, but the user fee increase would be locked in at $40, according to Whitcomb's analysis.

Council member Matt Kealy floated a motion to find a “hybrid proposal” that would move landfill debt payments back to the city's general fund, but also would blend the tax and fee increases highlighted in the two proposals.  

The city likely will bring a new proposal in August, City Manager Mark Freitag said.

Last updated: 10:58 pm Monday, July 28, 2014

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