News Today | Today Breaking News – By Guwahatyassam.info
OCONTO – Less than a day after City Council members voted to discontinue maintaining Copper Culture State Park unless a new contract was in place with the state by the end of the year, the Department of Natural Resources is poised to come to the table.
The city and a DNR official confirmed Thursday that they are planning to negotiate a new deal to replace the one that expired at the end of 2010.
However, statements from both sides illustrate differences of opinion on how things reached this point and on the structure of the lapsed agreement.
City officials said it was frustration that led them to take the action at the April 13 Committee of the Whole meeting, saying they had tried periodically for years to get the DNR to update the contract.
“It’s too bad it had to get to this point … come on … 10 years and you can’t get a resolved contract?” Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director John Bostedt said Wednesday morning. “If I didn’t get anything done for 10 years, I wouldn’t be here. It’s ridiculous.”
The contact actually expired about a year before Bostedt and City Administrator Sara Perrizo started working for the city. About a year later, Bostedt recalled, a city staff member told them the agreement was out of date.
“We finally got a hold of someone (at the DNR) who said they would get back to us,” Bostedt said. “We got another year or two into it and hadn’t heard anything yet.”
Over the years, he added, Perrizo, council members, and Mayor Lloyd Heier have all tried to talk with someone.
Two years ago, because of turnover at the DNR, a new person become the city’s liaison. Bostedt said the contract was raised when that person visited.
“We told him about our concerns,” he said. “Another year goes by and still nothing.”
Bostedt said in the past six weeks, he, Perrizo and the mayor, as well as three members of the Oconto County Historical Society — which operates the museum — tried again to reach someone at the DNR.
“None of us have heard anything,” Bostedt said.
Sara Pearson, the Northeast District Parks Supervisor for the Bureau of Parks & Recreation Management, claimed that DNR and the city had started negotiating a new contract in 2018.
“Between us, the DNR, and the city, we had a couple staff changes, significant staff changes, and the agreement did (get) put on the back burner,” Pearson said Thursday. “Neither ourselves or the city followed up on it (until) now.”
Asked for a response to that assertion, Perrizo said: “I would state that John, Mayor (Lloyd) Heier and I have all reached out at least once to both the DNR and our local legislators regarding the agreement since 2018.”
Pearson also said that the good news was that the city continued to receive annual payments of $3,600 for Copper Culture State Park.
However, the city has only considered $1,000 of that to be for maintenance.
The remainder is matched by the city and used to pay tour guides at the Copper Culture Museum, Bostedt and Perrizo said.
When asked about this, Pearson said she checked with a colleague in Madison — Missy VanLanduyt — who said that wasn’t the case.
“We provide the money, and the city determines how to utilize it, whether it be for maintenance, labor, or supply cost,” Pearson said in an email.
Perrizo said the city had labored under different information.
“Part of the problem with not having a contract is that there are differing takes on what the $3,600 is to be used for,” she said. “When the amount went from $1,000 to $3,600, we were told that the additional $2,600 was to be used for tour guides at the museum and the city was asked to match that amount.”
Less importantly, but no less telling, the DNR and the city also have differing views on what finally spurred communication.
“It initiated with your media inquiry to our department, which came to me,” Pearson said. “I asked my colleague to look into it, as these partnership agreements we have, falls to her … they’re in her wheelhouse.”
The Oconto County Reporter emailed the DNR’s press office asking about the contract Wednesday morning.
However, Alderman Al Schreiber had been in contact on and off with the DNR on Wednesday and he believes that is why Perrizo received an email from VanLanduyt on Wednesday night, Perrizo said.
“Regardless, we are in the process of setting up a meeting to discuss getting a contract back in place,” she added.
Pearson said VanLanduyt — the Recreation Partnerships, External Relations and Communication section Chief for the DNR’s Bureau of Parks — and DNR employee Mike Duke, who will be the new contact for the city concerning the park, will be working to get a new agreement executed.
“That will take some time to restart what we had worked on in 2018,” she said.
Bostedt said he would like the city to get at least $3,000 to $4,000 more a year, saying $1,000 is nowhere near sufficient.
“I don’t think we’re being unreasonable (in) asking for a fair contract,” he said. “We’re just looking for enough to cover what we’re trying to do out there.”
The park is used more than people might think, Bostedt added. Visitors have lunch at the pavilion, go on walks, come out to walk their dog, and of course, visit the museum.
He said Parks employees clean the bathrooms — now three times a day in the COVID-19 era — clean trails, restock paper products, empty garbage, mow, and paint and repair signs.
“We take care of that park like we take care of the city’s parks,” Bostedt said.
Bostedt explained things came to a head last fall after the city received $3,600 from the DNR, as it had in previous years, but again no communication from the agency. The Parks and Recreation Committee later voted to recommend the council sever the contract.
The council modified that recommendation at the COW meeting, and its on the agenda for final approval for April 20.
Bostedt said he understood there were personnel changes at the DNR.
“But then don’t make a promise that you’re not going to keep, or a least going to hand it off to someone,” he said.
Contact Kent Tempus at (920) 431-8226 or [email protected]
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