Brattleboro Selectboard OKs Living Memorial Park for skatepark
BRATTLEBORO -- The Selectboard voted 5-0 Tuesday night to allow the town's skatepark committee to develop the Theresa Brungardt Senior Area as the location for a new public skatepark.
The Theresa Brungardt Senior Area is in the northeast corner of the park, between the pool and edge of the park that abuts the Brattleboro Area Farmers' Market area.
The board's vote capped years of work by supporters of a skatepark.
"I'm ecstatic," Skatepark Committee Chairman Jeff Clark said after the vote. "Now we have to decide where we go from here. We have to figure out what the hurdles are -- Are they financial, are they human resources? -- and then just take each hurdle down one by one."
More than 30 people came out to the meeting, but after so many meetings, letters-to-the-editor and online posts, there were very few comments made by the public.
The board was considering five sites in town after a Selectboard-appointed committee went through a site selection process earlier this year and came up with four potential sites.
The Theresa Brungardt Senior Area was actually not one of the four sites the committee chose, but the Selectboard members looked at it while they were visiting the other two sites at Living Memorial Park and it rose to the top of the board's list.
The committee chose the Elm Street Parking Lot as its top choice, and Crowell Lot next.
The Theresa Brungardt Senior Area is flat, near a bathroom and accessible, but it does come with a number of challenges.
Since Living Memorial Park was built under an Act 250 permit, that process will have to be reopened if the town is going to move ahead and develop the skatepark there.
That will cost money.
The town uses the area heavily during the summer camp season and Recreation and Parks Director Carol Lolatte said the board's decision will most likely require other changes at Living Memorial Park to give the town space that it is losing.
The Brungardt family gave the town money to build the senior area, and Lolatte said the family also will have to be contacted.
"We are going to have to have a whole restructuring of that area," Lolatte said. "Our first step is going to be putting money into a study to see if it is feasible to put it there."
Building a skatepark on the site will also require stream bank stabilization work, which will add costs to the project.
"It's a very exciting time," said Lolatte. "There's been a need in Brattleboro for a skatepark for a long time. There have been many, many, many volunteer hours that have gone into this. I'm glad we've gotten to the point where we can move forward."
The board also voted 4-1 Tuesday night to ask Town Meeting Representatives to approve spending up to $20,000 of town money on the project.
The board came to consensus pretty quickly on the site selection, but the decision to come up with town money to support the project required a little more debate.
Board member Kate O'Connor voted against the Town Meeting article.
O'Connor said she supported the skatepark, but she said she wanted to talk about committing money to the project when the town is looking at all of its other needs next year.
"No matter what money we spend on the FY 16 budget, I think we have to look at it in the context of everything else we do," O'Connor said. "I would love to have this discussion and this vote, but do it in October or November or December, and do it in the larger context."
"This is not the only expense that we don't know exactly how much it's going to be, and it's sitting out there waiting for us," interim Town manager Patrick Moreland said. Referring to the Municipal Center, he added, "I would remind the board that it wasn't all that long ago that the Division of Fire Safety gave us a to-do list for this building, and it will cost in the neighborhood of $400,000, or $420,000. If we are to successfully address some of those urgent concerns without pushing forward with a tax increase, places like the unassigned fund balance are going to be critical."
And Chairman David Gartenstein said it might be hard to get Town Meeting Reps to approve the skatepark money when the police-fire project is still on hold.
"A community that can't reach consensus on rebuilding its emergency services facility, I think needs to hesitate before it dedicates money to sponsoring more discretionary recreational facilities," he said.
Selectboard member John Allen made the motion to commit town funds to the skatepark.
Allen said he ran for a Selectboard seat to make sure the town controlled its spending, but he said he was in favor of finding some money to support the skatepark.
"I just feel that this organization has been put through the ringer, " Allen said. "To me its more of a gesture of our willingness to make something available to the children and the adults who skateboard, and put this thing to rest. To me the $20,000 is a small price to pay to give the goodwill to the BASIC group."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.
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