The village council is expected to hear further details this month on a proposal to replace the chain link fence around the park located at Circle Avenue and 16th Street after objections were raised over the cost and the necessity of the work.
Commissioner Terry Steinbach brought the item to the council in October, and was met with several objections before the issue was tabled. Her proposal was influenced largely by comments from neighboring residents who attended a crime prevention meeting hosted by Mayor Anthony Calderone. Steinbach spoke with local residents and members of the police department about park safety issues, and several residents pointed to the park and its fence as an area of concern.
“We need to contain our children’s playing to a park-friendly environment,” Steinbach said.
According to Steinbach, residents noted only two incidents of vandalism, however, a child was reportedly injured while playing near a broken part of the fence.
A suggestion to replace the fence with shrubs was made at the meeting, but Police Chief Jim Ryan objected to the idea. Steinbach is estimating a new fence would cost the village roughly $12,000.
“People can hide behind the bushes,” Ryan said. “This would conceal them from the streets, and possibly encourage the use of drugs and alcohol.”
Ryan said his officers closely monitor the park, and lock it at night.
Funding for the replacement was the primary source of tension at the October council meeting. Commissioner Patrick Doolin, who is expected to run against Steinbach in the upcoming election for mayor, said there is not a lot of wisdom in replacing the fence.
“You have the question of timing,” Doolin said. “Why put up a fence in the middle of winter? Do we really want to spend unappropriated money on a project with little payback?”
Doolin said it would be best to postpone the replacement until spring. The extra time will allow the board to approach the issue in a more reasonable and creative way, he said. And, more importantly, they will be in a new budget cycle.
Other commissioners wanted to see a more comprehensive plan from the park board. Some wanted professional input from an architect or engineer, but Steinbach said there is no need for outside consultation, as two certified playground specialists serve on the park board.
The public works budget was confirmed in a memo by the director of finance, according to Steinbach. Steinbach admitted the expenditure wasn’t specifically stated in the budget, but that “things come up.” Steinbach said she was disappointed the council didn’t respond to the issue.
“The fence we have now is in poor condition,” Steinbach said. “And there’s no point in replacing it with the same fencing structure.”
Doolin said much of the debate on the idea is likely motivated by politics.
“The issue was presented as a want, not a need,” Doolin said. “When it comes to spending money you have to make a compelling case. Steinbach failed to do that.”
The village council will discuss the issue futher on Nov. 27.