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A city of La Crosse committee Thursday approved $7.58 million in new borrowing for capital improvement projects such as the Veterans Memorial Pool, streets and park projects, as well as a $30,000 private audit of the parks department.

The Finance and Personnel Committee voted in favor of a 2018 capital improvement budget that allocates $825,000 for Veterans Memorial Pool, $350,000 for Isle la Plume improvements and $100,000 to Riverside Park improvements. The vote came after a tie vote of 3-3 to reallocate the $100,000 for Riverside Park’s fountain to the pool project.

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Barb Janssen mug

Janssen

Council member Barb Janssen, who sits on the committee, suggested moving the money from the fountain to the pool, pointing out that the council approved more than $1 million for Riverside Park improvements last month.

“This is a very important project and the more money we can allocate to this project today or this coming week gives the committee that is working on fundraising an opportunity to actually save us money in the future,” Janssen said.

Support from the city, she argued, would encourage people to donate to the project.

“A lot of the legwork is coming to an end, so we can actually start building next year and get rid of that eyesore,” Janssen said, referring to the pool location on Campbell Road which was dug up as the infrastructure was studied.

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David Marshall mug

Marshall

Council member David Marshall agreed, saying a strong commitment would be a clear statement to potential donors.

However, other council members argued that while the council as a whole is strongly in favor of the project, it was a matter of time and splitting priorities.

“We definitely want it to happen. It’s just not going to happen as soon as everybody likes, just like most of our projects, our roads and everything else,” said council member Scott Neumeister.

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Paul Medinger mug

Medinger

While council member Paul Medinger was happy to see additional funding for the pool throughout the capital improvement budgeting process last month, he said, he also wants to ensure Riverside Park’s fountain remains operational.

“If we want to talk about eyesores, that fountain in the park that is the gem of our city shut down last summer with a sign on it — I go on my runs through there — that was an eyesore right in the middle of Riverside Park,” Medinger said.

According to parks and forestry superintendent Jay Odegaard, without additional work in 2018, it isn’t certain that the fountain would remain running for the entire season.

“That fountain is showing its age. One of the issues that we deal with is the hard winters here. They never really show us what we’re going to find until we find it in the early spring,” Odegaard said. “It’s possible we could limp through another year just doing some preventative maintenance and patch repairs. It’s also something that we may end up having to shut it down altogether.”

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Mayor Tim Kabat

Kabat

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat urged the committee to approve the budget as-is, calling it a good balance of various priorities that falls within the city’s self-imposed borrowing cap of $7.5 million.

“It’s a fine balance. Yes, we could allocate $5 million to one project and tell all the other projects to just get in line and wait your turn, and that would delay action on those projects for even longer than what they experience now,” Kabat said.

The committee did approve an amendment to the budget, clarifying that $75,000 of the $125,000 allocated for trail restoration will be used to move Willow Trail, which runs from the La Crosse River Marsh to Riverside Park.

Parks audit

The committee voted 4-2 to approve paying WIPFLI $30,000 to audit the Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department, with Medinger and Phillip Ostrem speaking in favor of allowing the city’s new finance director to perform the audit, rather than paying for an outside firm.

Proponents of the audit said the outside audit will put to rest any questions about the funding process for parks project and bring the city more credibility.

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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(7) comments

LaCrosseTaxPayer


How many POT HOLES could be fixed with that amount of money? Why don’t they fix what the majority of the tax payers’ use other than waste money that a very small percentage of the people use!!! Taxes are way too high now with all the spend happy fools we have in government, stop the pet projects and corporate welfare for the good ol boys club and we’ll have more money than we know what to do with to fix the roads!!! WE NEED TO REMEMBER THESE TAX HAPPY FOOLS AND THEIR WASTEFUL WAYS AT THE VOTING BOOTHS AND SEND THEM PACKING!!!!!!!!!

Asiseeit

350,000 for isle la plume, just about what it would cost to pay for removing docks at marina and reimbursing the the boys that bought the harbors assets at the bankruptcy auction ?????

canman

How are the citizens going to go to the pool, marina and parks when the roads are impassable? Maybe the squeaky wheel groups will start a stagecoach service to transport their victims free of charge. After all, those tall long wheels should span most of the canyons in the roads.

Asiseeit

Here's an idea, instead of spending money in the woods, fix the roads, Any visitors to La Crosse drives on three of the worst roads in the city, LaCrosse street, 4th street and the winner, 3rd street ( should be closed ) bet nobody says " this is a nice city " after driving on those wagon trails ! and who ever came up with the parking mess on State street between 2nd and Front street should get a new job.

dontknowjack

Trail-
a beaten path through rough country such as a forest or moor.
75k to beat a path? That is going to be a smoother drive than La Crosse street I'm sure.

canman

The squeaky wheel groups have the common council of idiots spending money that the silent majority is against.

allcav

This is so true. Two activists from GENA, one who is now a council member, have made the pool their quest in life. The rest of the neighborhood are silent, but we'll all be paying for this mess.

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