The Park Board staff is calling the project a maintenance project. However, according to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, maintenance is “periodic expenditures undertaken to preserve or retain an asset’s operational status for its originally intended use. These expenditures do not improve or extend the life of asset.”
Clearly, this reconstruction project, which will improve and extend the life of the parking lot, is more than maintenance; it is a capital improvement project and should be referred to as such. But for some mysterious reason, both the staff and Commissioner Bob Fine continue to insist that it is not a capital improvement project and that citizen input is not mandated.
This is an election year and, hopefully, voters who believe in citizen participation will be taking note of this issue.
Co-founder of Park Watch
The following article by Cristof Traudes about the controversy appeared in the June 15, 2009 issue of the Southwest Journal.
CONTRACTOR BIDDING TO OPEN FOR CALHOUN PARKING LOT
Park Board staff is expected to open contractor bidding later this month for the makeover of the south-shore parking lot on Lake Calhoun.
The about $350,000 project, which will be funded by the Metropolitan Council, would upgrade what currently is a lot in poor condition, project manager Andrea Weber has said. In an e-mail, Weber said the width of the parking lot is awkward and striping is fading away. Stormwater also currently flows directly into Lake Calhoun.
The project would increase the number of parking spots, Weber said, to 50 from a current maximum of about 42, depending on how people park. Rain gardens will be added to mitigate runoff, while new lighting will be installed for safety.
Several trees already have been removed at the site. Construction is slated to begin in late August.
Meanwhile, some Southwest residents continue to be upset at the way the project has moved ahead without commissioners’ review. Staff has upheld that it’s categorized as a maintenance project and therefore doesn’t need public input or Park Board approval, something echoed by Commissioner Bob Fine, whose district includes Lake Calhoun’s south shore.
In an April letter, 10 residents — including Park Board candidate Anita Tabb — from seven different neighborhoods said that this is really a capital improvement project and that, by Park Board guidelines, it requires the creation of a citizen’s advisory committee.
Fine brushed off the suggestion, saying he didn’t consider the letter representative of what most citizens think. He noted that some of the signers were members of the watchdog group Park Watch, with which he has had a strained relationship.