No decision on alcohol in city parks
JANESVILLE The Janesville City Council will consider whether to require background checks before the city allows someone to buy a permit to drink beer and wine in select park pavilions.
At Monday's council meeting, Councilman Sam Liebert noted Wisconsin's "drinking problem," but said he understands at the same time "we can't babysit or police everyone."
Liebert said he would feel better if some sort of check were instituted that might find a "red flag" in someone's background.
The level of the background check remains uncertain. Liebert suggested one possible check could be similar to those made when residents apply for bartending licenses. That check would look for any alcohol-related citations.
A public hearing on the issue that was closed Monday now will be continued at the Feb. 11 council meeting.
A vote was delayed until council members could get more information on background checks, including what the costs associated with them might be.
Police Chief Dave Moore also wondered whether some sort of appeals process might need to be discussed, since those denied a bartending license by the alcohol license advisory committee still can appeal to the council.
Staff and members of the city's leisure services committee recommended a move to allow beer and wine in certain city park pavilions. The existing city ordinance does not allow alcohol in parks.
Park pavilion rentals begin in February, so people who are considering whether to rent one would not know if beer or wine would be allowed this year.
Before Liebert's suggestion, council members who spoke supported the idea to allow residents to drink beer and wine in parks. They also appeared to support city staff's recommendation to charge $50 per permit.
Councilman Russ Steeber said the city has been loosening its stance on alcohol in recent years and no problems have occurred. Beer and wine is served at Janesville Jets hockey games, he said, and residents can sit outside restaurants and drink alcohol.
It's all about allowing residents to be responsible and accountable, Steeber said.
"I don't think it's unreasonable to allow someone to have a family reunion or other gathering and have beer and wine in a park," he said.
Councilman Jim Farrell, who also is on the leisure services committee, said staff surveyed other cities and found no alcohol-related problems in those parks.
"It's not going to provide a significant amount of revenue, but it gives our citizens an option to have a celebration, a family get-together, and to have beer and wine available," Farrell said.
However, Councilman Matt Kealy cautioned that staff time needed to conduct background checks could cost as much as the $50 permit.
Councilman DuWayne Severson said he was OK with delaying a vote on the issue for two weeks since residents have not been able to drink alcohol in parks since 1967.
One resident spoke in favor of changing the policy to allow beer and wine in parks. Two others spoke against it.
Scott Knox, a member of the leisure services committee, said the committee studied the issue and discovered no other problems in communities where alcohol in parks is allowed.
Sarah Johnson, project coordinator for Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, urged the council to vote against the revision. She said children are bombarded every day with the notion they must drink to have fun.
Parks would become just another place to display the culture of alcohol, she said.
Jim Watson of Edgerton also spoke against the change. He warned of park patrons drinking and driving and running into pedestrians.
"If this were to pass, it would soon lead to drinking in parks without permits at any time," he said.
Watson also said if the city is considering the change to raise revenue, he would be willing to write a $3,000 check to cover any $3,000 budget hole that might appear if the council voted down the ordinance change.
COUNCIL BORROWING $200,000 TO MAINTAIN CITY GOLF COURSES
Janesville City Council members on Monday agreed to borrow $200,000 this year to replace golf equipment and other furnishings at the city's two golf courses, even though one council member said he was initially against the borrowing for what some consider a "rich man's sport."
The city must pay for all equipment now that it no longer has a leasing company running the courses. Another $400,000 in borrowing is forecast in the next two years.
Councilman Matt Kealy tried to cut some of the borrowing and suggested the council remove $9,000 for table and chairs, $3,500 for a keg cooler and $7,500 to remove a bridge. He said he had checked out the chairs and tables and found them to be adequate, at least for this year.
Kealy also said he was concerned the city was borrowing $7,500 to pay workers to remove the bridge at Blackhawk Golf Course, 2100 Palmer Drive. He wondered why the work couldn't be done on work crews' down time.
Other council members argued the borrowing was necessary to maintain courses in such a competitive industry and to continue to attract people to the city.
The council needs to invest in the community rather than "cutting and slashing," Councilman Russ Steeber said.
Councilman Sam Liebert said many constituents asked him why the city is spending so much money on a "rich man's sport." He said the city's borrowing is increasing, and he, too, wondered how it could spend $600,000 in the next two years when it can't afford other things that more residents use.
But after initially being opposed to the idea, Liebert said Monday's discussion convinced him to vote for the full $200,000, he said.
The vote was 6-1 in favor, with Kealy voting no.