Rock County likely to fully preserve Upper Courthouse Park

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Jim Dayton
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

JANESVILLE—One square block of green space in Janesville's Courthouse Hill neighborhood likely will not become a surface parking lot after a county committee approved a resolution Tuesday.

The resolution, approved by the general services committee, calls for improving the Rock County Courthouse's existing parking ramp rather than paving Upper Courthouse Park with new surface spots.

Several months ago, the county considered multiple options to upgrade security and overhaul employee parking at the courthouse. Some of those options would have converted a section of Upper Courthouse Park into a surface parking lot.

But a vocal group of neighbors worked with the county to save the park.

The resolution approved Tuesday would add a 4-inch concrete overlay to the east parking structure. Employees could enter the courthouse with a badge through the east entrance, while all members of the public would go through security screening at the west entrance.

It also adds a stairwell and elevator to the east entrance to make that entry handicapped accessible. A plan to upgrade the loading dock is no longer included.

The resolution now awaits final county board approval at its next meeting Dec. 14. If approved, the plans would cost an estimated $6 million.

Committee Chairman Hank Brill said these moves save money while still solving security and parking needs. It's slightly less expensive than a $6.5 million idea that would have created the surface parking lot opposed by some neighbors.

Deb Wood, who lives on Atwood Avenue and advocated for park preservation, endorsed the resolution during the meeting's public comment period. She and other neighbors worked closely with the committee to find a compromise.

“We wanted to be able to do it respectfully, to be able to acknowledge the needs the courthouse has for security and parking for their employees,” she said. “But we also didn't want it to be taking the park that's very important for Janesville and the neighborhood.”

Upper Courthouse Park isn't the most expansive or picturesque plot in Wisconsin's Park Place—the flat piece of land is dotted with trees and tucked into one square city block—but green spaces boost neighborhood morale and enhance community spirit, Wood said.

Brill said the neighborhood group was “cordial and informed,” and the two sides worked well together.

Wood said she hadn't participated much in local government before, but she enjoyed working with county officials to find a solution that works for everyone.

“People need to participate. They can't sit back and hope things shake out. People need to know people and work with people,” Wood said. “Otherwise if you're us and them, it never works. It was very collaborative, I think. Our group is very satisfied.”

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