Close Vote Sinks Parks-Building Renovation

The Door County Board of Supervisors decided that an unbudgeted amount of $340,000 was too much to pay this year to remodel the County of Door’s parks maintenance garage located at John Miles Park in Sturgeon Bay.

The project is in the county’s capital-improvement plan and was originally estimated at $625,000. Among the four bids returned last November, the lowest was from RJM Construction in Black Creek, Wisconsin, at $914,750.

Two county committees had approved making the project happen – though not unanimously – by transferring $340,000 from the unassigned fund balance, leaving a balance in that undesignated fund of $23,087,047.09. The forward movement ended with the Door County Board of Supervisors, which defeated the project, 10-9, with two absent, during its Jan. 24 meeting.

“We have a lot of big projects coming up, and when you have something so far askew from the original, taxpayers would want us to look at that,” said Supervisor Todd Thayse.

“We have a lot of money in our reserve, but it certainly would not take a long time to reduce that,” said Supervisor David Englebert. “We need to turn this down. I’m willing to run the gamble of the price being better.”

County Administrator Ken Pabich said the project’s scope had changed from a bathroom renovation to a whole-facility renovation to house the parks department for decades to come. 

“It wasn’t project creep; it was redefining the project,” Pabich said.

Wayne Spritka, director of the Highway and Facilities Department, said the project didn’t represent a new need.

“The county board has been struggling with this for 15 years to have an adequate space to run the parks out of,” Spritka said. “Can we still operate as a county and still provide all our services? Yes. Our employees are going to do the best they can. But this is looking forward.”

Those who voted for it stated support for the parks department. Other supporters had been on the board long enough to be familiar with the repeated delays.

“The point is, the parks department needs a home,” Supervisor Dan Austad said. “If we delay, it will come back with the same plan, and it will cost more money.”

A couple of supervisors asked about using existing county space for the parks department – specifically, the highway department. Spritka turned that back to the board but didn’t get an answer.

“Maybe someone here can answer that better than I can,” Spritka said. “Why don’t we do that [use highway department facilities], because it’s been explored a number of times.”

Supervisor Nancy Robillard, who voted against the project, said she believed the county was “getting carried away with our spending.” Others who voted it down said the more fiscally responsible move was to budget for the project in 2024, knowing the true scope and cost.

“It’s not fiscally responsible to put something off for 15 years,” said Supervisor Vinni Chomeau, who was one of the nine who voted for the project.

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