"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.