It didn’t take long for Michael Clark to dive back into city politics after being sworn in as Columbus’ newest city council member.
Clark was appointed to fill the vacancy in District 3 during the Aug. 6 meeting at city hall. Clark defeated challenger Paula Steiner 4-1 in a paper ballot vote. City Clerk Megan Meyer swore in Clark after the council meeting and his first official meeting was the committee of the whole session following city council.
Clark previously served on the council from 2014-2016. Clark will serve the council until next April when a new member is voted in at the spring election. He told council members Aug. 6 he will not seek reelection next spring.
“I have two sons, one who is 18 and will go into the Marines, and I have a 16-year-old who was just hospitalized and all of that has put things into perspective for me; what my priorities are,” Clark said. “I really want to spend the next two years after this spending more time with my family.”
Clark feels his experience on the council a few years ago will be beneficial, especially with another budget cycle approaching. He believes his expertise could help new council members Kassia Millar and Jason Theilen.
“I can bring those two years of experience to the table,” Clark said.
Clark would also like to provide input on the city’s process in hiring a new police chief. Council President Andy Traxler asked Clark what will be key issues facing Columbus in the next several months.
“I think the city’s finances and budget will be the biggest issues,” Clark said. “We’re going to have a new police chief coming through as well.”
Both Traxler and Council Member Regan Hendrickson said they received advice from several constituents on who to select as the city’s newest council member.
West side park donation
The city accepted a $40,000 donation from Enerpac, a Columbus manufacturer, to provide playground equipment at a park development along Warner Street, but is holding off on allowing the company to name the park.
Council members were mostly split on calling it Enerpac Park. Hendrickson and Traxler favored naming it after the company due to the large donation. Council Member Trina Reid suggested calling it Enerpac Playground.
Mayor Michael Thom said while he appreciates the donation, he believes the park could change in the future. Representatives from Enerpac said it could provide more contributions, but would be more inclined to do so if it could name the park.
“This is the first part of the park (development) so we don’t know how large it will be in 30 or 40 years from now,” Thom said. “What else will be included in the park and how much it grows is not definable at this point, from my perspective. That’s why I’m a bit concerned with naming it Enerpac Park because we don’t know how big it will be and who else might want to donate down the road.”
Youth soccer agreement
After much consideration the past few months, Columbus has decided to work with Columbus Area Youth Soccer Organization on a field-use agreement.
While the Columbus Recreation Department is forming its own league, Director Amy Jo Meyers said she’s willing to work with CAYSO. Meyers said the organizations have improved communication the past couple months and are agreeing to field-use terms.
“We’re all in an agreement that if we work together we make soccer better for all area players,” said City Administrator Patrick Vander Sanden. “We believe that moving forward with CAYSO on a field-use agreement is the way to go.”
Thom believes having a unified organization should be beneficial to parents and players. He also cleared up some confusion. Thom said children who sign up for the Columbus Recreation program will be able to go through the CAYSO organization. Currently, the city’s recreational program is for children 8 and under.
Meyers said an informational meeting will be held Aug. 15 at Columbus High School. More updates will be provided through Columbus Recreation Facebook page.
Highway 89 project update
In what Traxler called a “blow” to the city, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has decided not to fund bike lane work for the upcoming Highway 89 project.
If the city wants bike lanes, they would have to provide funding, which could cost $116,665. Vander Sanden said the DOT is no longer providing community grants to help fund additions to road projects, which it did for the 2017 James Street project.
“That would also include whatever cost that would be to secure the right-of-way for those bike lanes,” Vander Sanden said. “Current law states if we are not able to acquire the right-of-way for a bike lane we would have to use eminent domain and if it’s on private property, a property owner could cause an issue with securing a continuous bike lane.”
The project is slated for either 2020 or 2021. Council members said while they would like to have bike lanes, the added costs are too much of a gamble.