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Milton splash park plan plugged till 2013

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
June 7, 2012
— Milton city officials took a step back from a planned splash park on the city's east side and a step forward on a possible development study of the future Highway 26/59 corridor.

With little discussion or fanfare, the Milton City Council voted Wednesday in separate measures to delay the Goodrich Park splash park until February 2013 at the earliest—and to spend up to $15,000 on a hotel feasibility study at the junction of Highway 59 and the future Highway 26 bypass.


The council had voted earlier this year to put splash park project designs out to bid for construction, at the time estimating construction could cost a maximum of $371,000.


But bids for the project came in at least $50,000 to $75,000 above estimates, city sources said.


More than 20 companies had initially expressed interest in the project, but City Administrator Jerry Schuetz said only two firms eventually bid on it. One firm bid $424,000; another bid $484,000.


The city believes that few companies bid and bids got inflated because the city had a 61-day deadline for the project, he told the council.


Schuetz recommended the council shelve the project until at least February 2013, when he believes the city could get better bids on the project and tax increment financing coffers would have had time to recharge.


Some of the project would be paid for with city TIF money, but the city intends to fund it through a $100,000 public/private fundraising campaign. To date, fundraising efforts for the park have fallen short of the goal, although the campaign has raised about $51,000, Schuetz said.


Mayor Tom Chesmore offered the lone comment on Schuetz's news before the council voted to delay the splash park plan.


"We're all going to have to sit on our lawn chairs under our sprinklers again," he said.


Both the splash park and a potential hotel feasibility study are viewed as efforts by the city to adapt the east side in the face of the pending Highway 26 bypass.


The splash park is being viewed as a grassroots plan to funnel young families and tourism into Goodrich Park and adjacent businesses. It's part of an overall redevelopment plan of the east side and Parkview Drive that has been in the works since 2010.


Meanwhile, the bypass will pull thousands of vehicles a day off of the current Highway 26, which runs past Milton's east side business district, routing the bulk of truck and commuter traffic about a half-mile east of the city.


A feasibility study would consider whether the Highway 26/59 corridor would have enough traffic and demand for a hotel or another commercial development.


Officials say the city could use the study to recruit hotels for the site, which is in a city TIF district.


The council Wednesday voted to go into negotiations with IDM Group of Fort Atkinson for a feasibility study.


The council voted to spend up to $12,500 in TIF money for the study, with the remaining $2,500 to be paid by the Milton Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.


Other proposals on the study came in at $8,500 and $12,000, but Schuetz said IDM offered the broadest analysis for the lowest price.


Under IDM's study, the city could consider other business developments if the Highway 26/59 corridor is not suitable for a hotel.


Alderwoman Maxine Striegl cast the lone no vote, saying she believed that if a hotel wants to locate in Milton, it can pay for its own feasibility study.



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