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East River Water Corridor will be revisted next month


DE PERE — The De Pere Board of Park Commissioners will revisit whether to participate in a local collaborative effort between several municipalities to create an East River water corridor from Hoffman Road upstream to Ledgeview Park.

The collaborative would improve fishery conditions instream by removing impediments and creating aquatic habitats, according to Brown County Conservationist Mike Mushinski.

The project would restore habitat along the shore via removing invasive species, repairing erosion spots and tending to wetlands and pollinator areas.

The proposal includes adding two canoe/kayak launches.

The effort has $500,000 in federal funding, and the group has applied for a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

They’re also asking for natural resources damage assessment (NRDA) funds for the project along with a $25,000 request for Partners for Fish & Wildlife funding through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The commissioners tabled it because they felt terms weren’t fleshed out enough.

Marty Kosobucki, director of De Pere’s Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department, said he’s not sure he and his department can fulfill one of the requirements, which is to commit 40 to 100 hours of staff time per year for three years.

“It’s a wonderful idea that as a director of parks and rec, I’m in 100% support of that effort,” Kosobucki said.

He said he could go ahead and commit 40 hours one year, but what if the following year, he couldn’t?
Any unforeseen circumstance, budget cut, supply shortage or any number of things could arise, he said.
“I don’t know if I can promise 40 hours next year and the year after and the year after,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Kneiszel said he took a different view.

“I think this is not that big of a deal to me; it has a lot of potential” for very little in costs – a few thousand dollars in overtime, Kneiszel said.

“You’re probably looking at a half-glass-full worst-case scenario about staffing,” Kneiszel said. “I just think this is small in the grand scheme of things, and if they can raise $500,000 to get this going, and something good can come of it, I think it’s worth it and will pay off in spades.”

Commissioner Randy Soquet agreed.

“When I think about green space, when I think about cities that complain about not having green space, when I think about wild areas or undeveloped or untamed wild areas in the city and cities that wind up not getting used, I saw this opportunity for a space to take a little more shape and that can be much more useful by the residents,” Soquet said.

Alderperson Shana Defnet Ledvina said she definitely wanted De Pere to take part in the program “but not at the risk to our ability to function,” she said.

Commissioner and attorney Melissa Thiel Collar asked about the binding authority of any agreement the city would be asked to sign in order to participate.

“Marty has probably developed a series of priorities, and this is something where someone in a third party is coming in, asking him to do something within that very tight budget,” Thiel Collar said. “Let’s say we can commit for one year and then you’re forced to reduce staff, and you don’t have the capacity to have staff work on this. Is there any sort of penalty if there’s a violation of the contract?”

Kosobucki said he had no way of predicting what their staffing levels might be in two years.

“There could be a really bad budget crisis, and my budget gets cut, and I have to eliminate two people,” he said. “Or we could have some type of, you know, shoot, we can have some type of sod crisis.”

Thiel Collar said it’s hard to react to something if you don’t know the terms. “So if there is somebody coming to you with a concept and not the actual terms, it’s hard to say yes we can agree to that, or no we can’t, because we don’t know what the final terms would be.”

They voted to bring the matter back for discussion next month, hopefully with some of the questions answered.

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