DiLetto addresses park project
By Stephanie Johns
Madison Councilman Joe DiLetto from District 3 held his third Town Hall meeting since becoming a councilman. Those present last Tuesday heard updates about a couple of projects planned for their district.
DiLetto began the meeting by addressing his constituents.
“This meeting is for you,” he said, adding that he had asked City Planner Monica Callahan to be present to share details and answer questions about the Washington Park and Burney Street property projects.
Callahan said that the city has owned the park for about 15 years. Several years ago the city had some money to use at Washington Park, but local residents were concerned about a nearby trailer park.
She said the city has budgeted $15,000, they have received a $15,000 KaBoom! grant and a local anonymous donor has contributed $30,000 to be used to update the park. They have $5,000 left to raise, which will complete the cost for Phase I.
Phase I will include a playground, a space with picnic tables and a soccer field.
Children within a 10-minute walk of Washington Park are encouraged to attend Dream Day, in which they will be asked to share what their dream playground will include.
Dream Day will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 3 at CrossRoads School. Laura Rice from Morgan County Elementary School will lead an art activity. Snacks and beverages will be served. T-shirts and balloons will be given to the children.
Callahan shared her hope that citizens from DiLetto’s district will help get the word out about the event by distributing flyers to households in the immediate vicinity.
She then passed around a map of the Washington Park area with a half-mile service district highlighted. There are 964 residents in that area, including 239 children younger than age 17.
Build Day will be held in the spring. The city will do the prep work before that day and then the playground will go up in one day.
Madison resident Laura Butler asked if the bathrooms would be included in the park upgrades.
City Manager David Nunn said that they are “definitely being contemplated” but bathrooms would be a challenge to maintain as they would require both additional funds to build as well as regular supervision by an employee.
Callahan said bathrooms would add another $35,000 and that they may be considered in Phase II.
As to lighting, Callahan said this would be a day park open until dusk.
She noted that they are trying to mimic all of the amenities that they have at Hill Park.
Callahan then updated those present on the Gilmore property located on Burney Street. The city acquired the property for $87,000 and then transferred it over to the Downtown Development Authority.
The multi-use facility will likely have two residences upstairs and four businesses downstairs. Callahan said a beautician, a couple of educators, a cook, and a community service group have contacted her about potentially using the business spaces.
“The number one thing I hear is, ‘Are you going to get food in our area?’” she said.
Harvest of the Heart gives away fresh produce primarily to elderly and to the disabled, Callahan said. They also are involved in community gardens and will bring a freestanding cooler with them.
“They take in produce, offering cooking classes and classes on an eating healthy lifestyle,” she said, adding that they plan to allow members of the community to use the kitchen for canning.
Butler asked if the pink building on the corner of the property would have to be torn down because it does not meet code.
Callahan replied that they may be able to gut it and redo the inside or they may have to tear it down and rebuild it.
“It depends on how cash flow works,” she said. “It does not have to be a money maker but it can’t be a money loser. It must break even.”
Butler later asked about parking at the site.
Callahan said they must include handicap parking and will also include an area for loading and unloading. For the most part, though, this is a walking neighborhood, she said.
As to who they will contract with to do the work, Callahan said they plan to use local commercially licensed contractors as much as possible.
At this time they do not have a particular start date or deadline in mind but she expects work to begin next summer and hopes the building will be operational by the end of next year.
“One grant we can’t even submit until January,” she said. “And we must be able to pull out another $23,000 out of it.”
She referenced preliminary construction estimates and said that the project will require using volunteer labor as well as donated materials to help lower costs the necessary amount.
A couple of trees on the property will have to come down: one has a considerable hole in its trunk.
She said they will have a Town Hall meeting next month to provide details about the project to area residents. Details will be forthcoming.
Madison resident Chris Murray said that community building has become statistical instead of communal but this project is good.
“It’s about the community,” he said. “Those particular businesses should do well.”
DiLetto then asked those present what topics they might be interested in hearing about.
Butler said she was “very concerned” about the airport.
“They’re too close,” she said, referring to the planes taking off and landing there. “Some of the tops of my trees have died.”
DiLetto shared her concerns and responded that he also had witnessed planes flying too close to her home.
“By increasing the runway, we increase safety,” he said.
Nunn said that by adding 1,200 more feet to the runway they are increasing the airstrip by one-third of its current length.
The first Town Hall meeting DiLetto held for his District Three constituents was held at Calvary Baptist Church in March. The second was held at the Board of Education in July.
The next Town Hall meeting will be at 7 p.m. the third Tuesday in January at the Municipal Building located behind Lowe’s and just past Bohlen’s garage.
Printed in the November 1, 2012 edition.