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Muskego Parks Director Answers Critics, Reacts to Lake Park Proposals

Misinformation at the heart of opponents' claims, says Craig Anderson, who hopes to set the record straight.

"There are so many things that Muskego does right, that when you're bashed over the past couple of months, it takes a toll on people," said Craig Anderson, Muskego Parks and Recreation Director.

Anderson and his department have been taking on criticism as the debate has raged over a new park development on Little Muskego Lake, and it was apparent that he felt the need to set things straight.

Speaking at the parks board meeting Monday night, Anderson addressed several inaccuracies that have been at the heart of arguments opposing a second lake park. along Janesville Road, which has set off controversy over what the current state of the city's parks is.

Lately, talk of a $500,000-plus deficit has been mentioned during public input; Anderson said the department has never run a deficit, and uses park dedication fees and landfill funds to supplement its budget.

"Technically, opponents are using the tax dollars collected by the city to fund its various departments as a sign that we're running a deficit," he said.

Board member Gerald Hulbert echoed the thought, pointing out: "if this is the case, then it can be said that the Police Department, the Public Works Department and any department that is funded by tax dollars is in the hole. However, tax dollars are used to run those areas of the city so that the public good is served through these services in a more efficient manner."

Anderson also rebuffed claims that estimated costs on development at as much as an additional $7 million.

"For a park of 4.6 acres, I'd have to build restrooms with gold-plated toilets to get to that high of a cost," he said.

He also pointed to aldermen on the council who have made comments that lended to the belief that the parks department can't maintain its current parks, namely in their use of prairie grass plantings.

"We looked at those areas in our parks that are not used, and decided to incorporate these plantings in order to save on the costs of mowing these areas," he explained. "Years ago, parks were built and they just planted grass everywhere; the four to five acres we are not mowing is saving $4,200 every year on that maintenance, and that is a cost that will never come back," he said.

In addition, Anderson pointed to survey results done on the department, which were handed out to park users as well as those in direct vicinity of parks, as a counter point to claims that the facilities are in disrepair.

"We have received a rating of good to excellent in 90 percent of the responses, and I have to believe that someone who comes in and takes the survey has more ownership of that park than someone who just says they are against the lake park," he added.

The statements came just before a that will involve a citizen's committee to provide input on what should go into the lake park in order to garner some estimate on costs. Anderson, as well as others on the board, took issue with Alderman Kert Harenda's version. The alderman is an appointee of the parks board, and his resolution would create an ad hoc committee that would report to the common council directly. In addition, Harenda's proposal would include a review of all parks' costs and projects.

"It's basically an audit of the parks," Harenda explained, to which members of the board felt that meant they weren't to be trusted.

"The recommending body for the parks is this board," Anderson told Harenda. "To have a separate group report to the common council on the parks is in essence creating a second parks board, alienating this board."

Harenda said it wasn't his intention to create a second board, but more to 'get a handle on' ongoing projects and how they were going to be funded."

Anderson said he didn't even think the resolution Harenda drafted was "even legal, as state statutes require the parks to be under the authority of the parks board," and direct reporting to the Common Council by the committee would side-step that. 

He clarified that he was interested in working with a group to provide input on the park development, but that the process should take place under the governance of the department and the board.

Yada yada yada... March 15, 2012 at 02:25 AM
where can a resident go to view any contracts the Park and Rec Dept has with any outside companies, whether it's for maintenance services, professional services, or anything that the park and rec dept could do itself but chooses to outsource?
Aaron S. Robertson, MSM March 15, 2012 at 03:36 AM
Thanks to you and to your staff for the important work that you guys do, Craig!
Brandon Karpowitz March 15, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Who's in charge of maintenance of Lion's park? Have they ever tried to play on that basketball court in the last 3 years? It's unusable. The playground itself is very worn out as well. This is the kind of maintenance I'd like to see Muskego focus on, rather then build new parks. It's not just about cutting grass, keep the equipment and facilities updated so that they are able to be used and enjoyed by people. I used to see people playing ball on that court daily all summer long. Now nobody is over there cause it's dangerous to play on. It's not that I don't appreciate the work being done, I just believe that funds could be better used to improve and keep what we have at a better level, then create more things that need to be maintained, or replaced in time.
Suzi Link March 15, 2012 at 04:52 PM
JUST A LITTLE HISTORY REMINDER FOR MR. ANDERSON AND MAYOR CHIAVEROTTI: Once upon a time, there was a controversy regarding a Muskego Park, particularly regarding who controlled it and how much the taxpayers had to pay to maintain it. Because it was so controversial (it had already eaten 2/3 of a Million of "Park Dedication Funds", a "loan" which was to have been re-paid to the fund a decade ago) the Common Council created an Ad Hoc Committee to try to resolve the controversies and clairify issues surrounding that park. THIS COMMITTEE ANSWERED TO NO ONE EXCEPT THE COMMON COUNCIL. Craig Anderson knows this, because he was the "STAFF LIASON" for the committee. Alderman Snead knows this because she was the Aldermanic Representative on this committee. Mayor Chiaverotti know this because she was the Chamber of Commerce representative to this committee. How do I know this? Because I was the "Citizen at Large" member of the Committee that the committee elected to be Chairman. Instead of bastardizing legal opinions to defend questionable actions, lets look at simple facts. 1. there is nothing illegal about appointing an 'independant source' to audit something. That is the whole point of an audit--to get an unbiased, careful review of an organization or department. 2. If we accept the argument that Ad Hoc Committees are "illegal" the "Mayor's Task Force for Economic Development", operating by and spending our taxes and must be dissolved immediately.
Brett Hyde March 16, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Hi Suzi, I assume you referred to the ad-hoc Citizen Study Committee on the Future of City Owned Settlement Center Property. While most of the work for the agreement was done through this committee, final approval before proceeding to the Common Council went to the Park and Rec Board. We spent several meetings, including a very long one in May of 2007, discussing details of the agreement. I have to say that the committee did an outstanding job. My recollection is that while we provided input through Craig Anderson and Tracy Snead, we made no changes to the final document. In fact, that document strengthens the relationship between Park and Rec and the Historical Society. Since the implementation of the agreement we have worked well together. The document does contain provisions requiring Park and Rec to review and modify certain aspects of the agreement over time. We discussed that in great detail at our June 2007 meeting. We recently reviewed the utility usage at our meeting this past November as required by the document.
Brett Hyde March 16, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Resolution 024-2012 on the other hand makes no mention of Park and Rec other than "the committee will have at its disposal, input from the Parks and Recreation Board", and that one of the members would have been a Park and Rec Board member. NOWHERE other through a Park and Rec representative would we have had any input before going to council In addition, 024-2012 specifically stated "BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Ad Hoc Park Acquisition Committee must present an interim report to the Common Council by August 1, 2012 and specifically advise the Common Council..." It read to me that the Park and Rec Board as a whole would have no say in the final report, despite the fact this is the role Park and Rec Board Members were appointed to do. This would have been a bad precedent to set, and would have just set the city up for a disaster.
Suzi Link March 16, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Brett Sorry, but you have been misinformed. While I have no doubt that the Park & Rec Board may have gotten progress reports regarding the activities of the Citizen Study Committee on the Future of City Owned Settlement Center Property from Mr. Anderson, our work product was presented DIRECTLY TO THE COMMON COUNCIL. It is possible that the Common Council may have asked for comment from the Park and Rec Board after we delivered our document to the Council, but I have no idea if that happened or not. On behalf of the members of the Citizen Study Committee on the Future of City Owned Settlement Center Property, thank you for your comments regarding the quality of our work-product. Suzi
Brett Hyde March 16, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Hi Suzi, I'm sorry but I must disagree with your interpretation of the Park and Rec Board's involvement in that process. As a member of the Park and Rec Board during the committee's existence, I remember not only discussing much of the development as it occurred, but also providing feedback through Tracy and Craig. If you look at the minutes of the Park and Rec meetings, you can see our level of involvement went beyond just receiving updates. In fact if you look at the June 2007 minutes you can see where we outlined the language to be used for utility usage and review. If you also look at the August 2007 minutes, you can see where we approved the agreement with minor changes (I stand correct when I said earlier no corrections were made). I am sure you saw Citizen Study Committee on the Future of City Owned Settlement Center Property as completely autonomous from the Parks and Recreation Board, but if it had been, you would have seen a huge outcry from the Board's membership. In the same vein, I believe resolution 024-2012 excluded the board far more than it either legally or ethically should have.
Suzi Link March 16, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Brett, I don't want to get into a debate about history or legalities. I will simply state again that (unless you have documentation I as Chairman was not aware of, which would be, to stay the least, highly irregular) the "Citizen Study Committee on the Future of City Owned Settlement Center Property" submitted its' work product to the directly to Common Council. I guess we just have to agree to disagree on the actual history. Suzi

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