Culver park board debates pier issue, fall fest, storage building

A lengthy, heavily-attended, and at times heated May 1 Culver parks and recreation board meeting centered largely on the implications of problems with the new public fishing pier installed last month, as well as the park's involvement in a proposed fall festival later this year.

Shortly after its initial install, a portion of the $44,000 pier -- a combination stationary and floating style dock planned for and discussed by the board over the past few years -- ended up submerged in the lake. Installer Van Huis Construction repaired the pier, according to park superintendent Kelly Young, April 26.

The general consensus of the board was overall dissatisfaction with the pier, though board member opinions varied as to what should be done about it, with some suggesting repairs to the pier would be sufficient to rectify the situation and some pressing for a complete overhaul of the project.

Board member Rhonda Reinhold suggested a review of the contract to see if the pier could be returned and replaced. However, it was noted -- to the apparent surprise of some board members -- that no contract was created or signed with the installer prior to installation.

Board member Patty Stallings, noting she had voted against a floating style pier in the initial proposal, suggested the problem lay in the format of the pier itself. Stallings also suggested the park board change its manner of business, possibly engaging a committee of professionals to overlook construction projects; board member Ed Behnke noted the town had a professional for just such oversight in the past.

The board requested town attorney Jim Clevenger send letters to the installer and manufacturer of the pier reflecting the board's unhappiness with the project, with the pier remaining closed to the public in the meantime, and decided to revisit the issue after consulting Clevenger.

A sizable contingent of Culver area merchants were on hand to discuss whether the park -- specifically, activities director Donna McKee -- would take an active role in a proposed fall festival tentatively slated for October 19 and 20.

Diva owner Sue McInturff explained merchants have been "brain storming for ways to bring people into town (during) the off season," with the festival as a resultant idea. Organizers hope to enhance the annual Culver scare crow contest, and the event would also include a pet costume parade, chili cook off, and display of local artists' work, among other activities.

McInturff said it was discussed that the park's activities director could take the lead in a haunted trail or beach lodge, utilizing "spooky" decorations donnated by Mark Damore, owner of the Original Root Beer Stand.

Rich West, executive director of the Culver Cove, suggested the event "doesn't have to be Barnum and Bailey (circus level)" for its first year out. "Just commit to an activity," he added. "We have to start somewhere and build on that."

Audience member Bill Furry asked that McKee be allowed to meet with the festival committee and work out a plan.

Mcinturff asked the board who the public should contact if they have ideas for activities, with Young responding such inquiries should be directed to Young herself, rather than activities director Donna McKee.
The issue of accessibility of McKee to community members was central to lengthy discussion with merchants and residents, with Young eventually consenting to allow McKee to attend fall festival meetings.
Board member Kathy Hart asked if involvement with the planning committee and work on the festival itself would be unfair to McKee, though Reinhold noted October is the off season and park activities such as festival organizers suggested "are what she's paid for."
Board member Ed Behnke emphasized the importance of the board not "micro-managing" McKee, since McKee works for Young.

Other discussion focused on a proposed storage building to be built on town property near the water tower on Lake Shore Drive, a project for which Young distributed bid packets.

Reinhold suggested the proposed building appeared to be more of a "pole barn" in construction than a more substantial steel or concrete structure. Stallings asked who had been contacted to research specifications for the building, noting her husband, contractor Mike Stallings had offered his services free of charge but was never contacted. Young said she had spoken with local contractor Tim Howard and an employee of the town about the building.

Behnke suggested the board should be in contact with professionals hired via the town council, adding he assumed Young was working with an engineer and attorney when the board planned construction projects.
In other actions and discussion, Young noted 18 boat slips are still available for rent this summer at park-owned piers, and the board voted to approve donation of a waverunner slip for the 2013 and 2014 seasons for donation to the Culver Boys & Girls Club auction next month.

Young also said the park's new babysitting club will meet May 8, and there is a fly fishing workshop scheduled for June 15, to be led by fisherman Charlie Ray.

She also explained F and H Contracting is mowing in the park for the next two weeks since mowing needs are growing faster than the pre-summer staff can keep up with.

The board also approved hiring of the park's summer staff.