FDL City Council Felt Loss Of Donor Funding Too Big, Moves Forward With Lakeside Park Binding Agreement

It seemed like a very long road to get to a decision that many felt was inevitable. And in the end it was. The Fond du Lac City Council met in a Special Session Wednesday night, in what was to have been one of two special sessions scheduled for this week. The topic at hand was the Lakeside Park Master Plan, and the Binding Agreement presented last week at the City Council Meeting.

The initial Binding Agreement was put into play last week by Councilmember Arletta Allen, and that plan was then altered by City Manager Joe Moore. In Wednesday night’s meeting, City Attorney Deb Hoffmann presented yet another version of the Agreement, with language pre-approved by the Lakeside Forward group. Moore pointed out during the discussion that he felt waiting any longer, would mean the donor money of $5.2 million would be taken off the table.

The motion was then made to approve the changes and additions to the Binding Agreement, with the motion being approved by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Allen, Degner and Miller voting against. And while the vote pushes the project forward, there was also a fair amount of discussion that was centered about a myriad of “what ifs”, most notably if there was anyway to protect the city, and ultimately the taxpayers, should the project start, but not finish. According to City Attorney Hoffman, the city is protected in a number of ways, both in the maximum amount of $5.2 million being committed by the city, as well as the exit clauses allowing the City Manager to exit the agreement, should he feel the City of Fond du Lac is being put into a position of unnecessary risk, within 120 days of the project commencing.

Hoffmann also said, while this negotiation is not ideally the way she’d like to see the City negotiate an agreement of this size, she also felt confident that there were enough options for the city to safely exit within 120 days, once the project moved forward.

A final vote passed 5-1, with Miller voting NO in moving the complete plan forward, and Councilmember Giles abstaining. The vote now means the modified Binding Agreement moves on to the Lakeside Forward group for approval from their side, as well as further finalization of details that need to be figured out. Barring any unforeseen bumps in the road, one can only assume the Alternative Master Plan train is about ready to leave the station. There’s only one lingering question on the minds of the 3,000+ residents who signed petitions to hold off on approving any agreement until the feasibility plan is presented in late October, as some on the Council had agreed to. Simply, why is Council moving forward now, instead of waiting for the study?

And you thought fireworks season was over for the year.