By Lee Reinsch
DE PERE – The De Pere Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department is over budget for next year, and some capital improvement projects and purchases will likely have to be delayed.
Not replacing a tree stumper and not installing a turf baseball field, among other items, trimmed more than $500,000 from the preliminary 2022 budget.
New expenses this past year include the newly-opened VFW Aquatic Facility, increases in seasonal worker pay and contracting with a tree service to help combat the emerald ash borer, Parks Director Marty Kosobucki said.
The capital improvement items likely to be shelved include replacing 26-year-old playground equipment at Willems Park ($85,000), building a new shelter at Patriot Park ($200,000), the city’s portion of installing a turf infield for a baseball diamond ($75,000), resurfacing a parking lot at Kiwanis Park ($17,000), expanding parking at Jim Martin Park ($100,000) and replacing an enclosed trailer and stumper ($45,000).
The VFW Aquatic Facility’s first year was busy and took in more revenue than anticipated, but it also created more work, enough for a full-time maintenance person and a seasonal pool administrator, Kosobucki told the park commissioners last month.
“One thing we learned with running an aquatic center that attracts up to 250 people a day is that the number of problems, tasks, headaches and administrative duties are magnified about tenfold from those of the old pool,” Kosobucki said.
He said the pool’s mechanicals – things such as the chemical feed mechanism – required more attention than pool employees were equipped to deal with, so the budget includes a full-time maintenance employee who will focus on troubleshooting.
The budget also includes a contract with a pool company for seasonal set-up and shut-down/winterizing of the pool.
The pool administrator, maintenance worker, and pool contract add about $65,000 to the bottom line.
Utilities for the pool are expected to cost around $34,500.
Kosobucki said the good thing about referendum money voters approved for the project is it’s there, but the bad part about using it, is it eats into the money for a second aquatic facility at Legion Park.
Alderperson Amy Chandik Kundinger asked if the added expenses of VFW would cause any delays for the one at Legion Park.
Kosobucki said it was up to the Common Council to decide.
“There are two approaches: We can either go ahead with Legion because VFW is done, or we can keep using Legion until it blows up, like VFW did,” Kosobucki said.
In 2018, the dive well at the old VFW pool popped out of the ground when staff opened the relief valve, causing huge craters in the concrete.
Kosobucki said the city has a nine-year backlog of ash trees to remove.
A contract for $80,000 with a private tree service will provide two arborists who could help the forestry department remove up to 250 of the city’s 800 ash trees in 2022.
“(The contract) is a big-ticket item, but if we continue as we are, we’ll never catch up,” Kosobucki said.
He said hiring two new employees would cost more than contracting out, and it would necessitate purchasing more equipment for them to use.
Also in the budget is a park patrol person to serve as a roaming security guard to handle such things as loiterers, people fishing in parts of the riverwalk area where it’s not permitted, and dogs in parks that don’t allow dogs.
“These are things the police would otherwise be called for,” Kosobucki said.
The park patrol will work four hours a day, seven days a week, for 16 weeks and earn about $5,800.