The state and federal governments might help pay for a new performing arts pavilion in Pauquette Park, if the pavilion plans incorporate a multi-use trail.
The five members of the city of Portage’s Parks and Recreation Board on Tuesday gave their unanimous blessing to exploring the possibility of applying for grants available through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Board member Tim Haak observed that, even if the grant application is rejected, there’s nothing to lose by trying.
Nancy Beasley, representing the Portage Service Club Association, said she appreciated the effort.
“This is good,” she said. “Thank you for considering this.”
The service clubs organization still plans to raise all the money for an open-air pavilion at Pauquette Park.
Parks and Recreation Manager Dan Kremer said the cost estimate for the pavilion, about $315,000, is a moving target. Actual costs won’t be known until the project is designed and decisions are made about building materials.
But Kremer said he recently learned of the availability of three grant opportunities, which could help pay for as much as half the cost of improvements to Pauquette Park. The grants, all offered through the natural resources department, include the Knowles-Stewardship Grant, the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the federal Trails Program grant.
Kremer said he recently met with the DNR’s regional grant coordinator, Cheryl Housley, and outlined the plans for the Pauquette Park pavilion, and the memorandum of understanding between the city and the service clubs – that the service clubs will raise all the money to build the pavilion, and the city will operate and maintain it once it’s built.
Also, Kremer said, he discussed the city’s plans for adding trails, including one in the vicinity of Pauquette Park, which would be part of the city’s capital improvement plan to improve West Conant Street in the next year or two.
According to a memo from Kremer included in the information packet for Tuesday’s meeting, Housley indicated the city has a good chance of being awarded grant money if the proposed trail would be routed so that it would connect to the Ice Age Trail. A portion of the Ice Age Trail runs along the Highway 33 bridge over the Wisconsin River, next to Pauquette Park.
The city, and not a private entity, must apply for the grants, Kremer said. The grants all require a 50 percent local match.
But in the case of this project, most if not all of that match could come not from the city’s coffers, but from the money that the service clubs organization has agreed to raise, to pay for the full cost of the pavilion and part of the cost for accessible restrooms in Pauquette Park.
Beasley said about $105,000 has been raised so far.
According to the memorandum of understanding, construction of the pavilion can’t start until all the money is in hand.
Board member Mark Hahn asked what would happen if the city were to be awarded the grant before the service clubs group had raised all the money it promised.
Kremer said city officials would need to be fairly sure of the amount of local matching funds available before applying, because the grants typically cover half of whatever a project’s cost might be.
Brian Zirbes, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board, clarified that the pavilion, by itself, would not be eligible for the grant funding. Rather, it becomes eligible when it is paired with the trail project.
Grant amounts are typically less than $250,000, Kremer said.
And, time is of the essence. The application deadline is May 1.
Before the application can be submitted, according to Kremer, the city will need to update its comprehensive outdoor recreation plan to document that the trail, pavilion and related projects are included in the plan.
If grant money comes through, Kremer said, city officials also would need to revisit the memorandum of understanding – approved in July 2017 by the Portage Common Council – outlining the roles of the city and the service clubs in the project,
Board member Mike Charles suggested the project, and the proposal to seek grants for it, be discussed at tonight’s committee of the whole meeting at 5 p.m. in the council chamber, when the council will discuss long-term priorities for capital projects, in an effort to hold the line on debt.
As Portage Common Council president, Charles will preside over the committee of the whole, which will make no decisions.