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Park board debates merits of pier styles

September 14, 2012

Culver's park board appears to be one step closer to facilitating the long-planned public pier west of the swimming beach.

Lengthy discussion ensued, however, at the Sept. 5 board meeting as to the specifics of the pier's construction. Board member Ed Behnke initially questioned fellow member Tammy Shaffer's suggestion that any public discussion of multiple bids submitted for the pier's construction be tabled until the board is more certain of the type of pier it wants to install. Behnke noted the board had been working towards the pier for ten years, though he added he wasn't unwilling to table the discussion.

Town manager Dave Schoeff, in the audience, noted if the bids were opened, cost proposals would have to be made public, making for an unfair situation for the bidders. In recent years, the board has considered the merits of transitioning to a floating dock, which some previous board members -- on a committee appointed to study the matter -- suggested could be left installed year-round, rather than removed for the winter as piers are today.

Behnke said he wasn't insisting on a floating pier, but emphasized the need for any pier installed to have sufficient mass to give park patrons a stable feeling when using it. Several bidders were on hand at the meeting, the majority from out of state.

Board member Patty Stallings suggested they be consulted as to the pros and cons of various pier styles. Brian Morten of Michigan-based Thru Flow, which manufactures pier decking, said a floating pier year-round on Lake Maxinkuckee is impossible, regardless of its size and type, due to ice buildup. Morten also criticized the bid specifications as released by the board.

"Please, next time (research the matter) before you release a bid," he said. "This guy came from Wisconsin, and you're not going to look at their bids. They've put in a lot of hours, and you guys put in years."

Culver-based pier installer Tim Yuhas suggested a legbased pier could be as stable as a floating system, though Michigan-based pier installer Dave Van Huis argued the opposite, though he noted stability is a relative matter and discerning what it feels like is subjective from person to person. Yuhas suggested the pier specifications the park put out for bid also might not meet state DNR standards of length versus water depth, something park superintendent Kelly Young said she would check into, with Schoeff assisting.

Pier manufacturer Jeff Spence suggested the board consider a stationary dock which would transition to floating, with "wings" installed off the main pier for handicapped usage, an idea which met with some positive response from board and audience members. In the end, the board scheduled a public work session for Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. to explore the matter in more detail.

Shaffer thanked the vendors for their time, which she assured them "was not wasted."

In other action, the board approved FH Decking handling seasonal mowing in the park at $190 bi-weekly, as well as for $2,340 for lawn care maintenance including fertilizer applications this fall. Young discussed integrating projections of property tax receipts into her 2013 budget, per the town council's recent request, bringing the budget to $255,550, a decrease of $13,684 from the previous year's budget.

Stallings asked if the board wishes to discuss the three percent raise for Young in the budget, which Behnke had questioned at the previous park board meeting, since he said other municipal employees may not receive a raise. At the Sept. 5 meeting, Behnke said having the raise in the budget "doesn't lock us into anything.

"Come Christmas, we could make a decision on that," he added. "Whatever the majority wants to do. I feel bad giving a few people a raise when nobody else is getting one."

The board approved the budget as submitted. An executive session prior to the board's October meeting will include a review of Young's job performance, it was noted. Young explained she will advertise to hire the park's new activities director near the end of 2012, with the new hire to start in January or February.

Audience member Ed Pinder expressed happiness with the computer planned for purchase for the park, a matter of some debate at previous meetings. Acknowledging he was initially opposed to the purchase, Pinder said since Young and town clerk Karen Heim have been able to work together to determine what they want to purchase, "I think it's a great idea."

"It's amazing what we can accomplish when we work together," Shaffer responded. Audience member Tom Kearns emphasized Young should be "very careful" in policing the installation of the present public pier west of the swimming beach, which cost $4,900 in repairs.

"That tells me that pier was not put in properly," he added, noting the installation contract calls for two more years with the same company.

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