New Council Set to Tackle Some Familiar Challenges

The Fond du Lac City Council is set to meet next week, and when they do, it will include the newest members of the council as well as a newly-elected President and Vice President.

Tiffany Brault, Keith Heisler and Patrick Mullen will enter the council chambers for the first time as councilmembers, having gathered the most votes in the most recent Spring election. Current councilmember Kay Miller will serve as President, with Patrick Mullen elected Vice President. Brault, Heisler and Mullen have been vocal in their opposition to the Lakeside Park Alternative Master Plan, and collectively said they’d support a public referendum on the plan.

Among the many challenges facing the new council will be, what can be done to move the Lakeside Park Alternative Master Plan forward. The plan has drawn support, both verbally and financially, from donors throughout the city of Fond du Lac, in the amount of $5.2 million. Those funds would be used primarily to construct a multi-use building to be built near the lighthouse peninsula.

The financial support for a local project is not something new to the donor group, otherwise known as the Lakeside Forward Group. In fact, dozens of businesses in and around the city of Fond du Lac have donated millions of dollars over the years to numerous projects.

A drive through Fond du Lac shows numerous visible projects that carry the names of a great many local businesses who have supported local causes: Fond du Lac YMCA, Thelma Center for the Arts, Kiekhafer Park, Holy Family Church, Stayer Center at Marian University, Sadoff Gymnasium at Marian University, Fondy Youth Baseball Complex, St. Mary Springs renovation/addition as well as a turf field being installed, North Fond du Lac Football Complex, Fond du Lac Humane Society, Agnesian Hospice Home of Hope, Dale Michels Cancer Center located at Agnesian/SSM Health, to name a few.

Dozens and dozens of businesses also support youth sports teams, as well as banners and logos on display on numerous uniforms and outfield fences and fields.

Even Lakeside Park has been a large recipient of private funding going as far back as 1933, which includes the lighthouse and the big locomotive. At one point, the lakefront was only accessible by residents who owned horses, so business leaders at the time donated $2,000 to extend Main St. to the lakefront at Lakeside Park.

Not to be forgotten is Walleye Weekend, which is arguably one of the most visible events in the city, and also a major fundraiser for many service groups within Fond du Lac. The event itself is billed as a “Free” event, due to the numerous sponsorship funds donated by businesses in the area.

What’s obvious within the city is that local businesses have always supported local causes for decades. What’s not known is if that support will remain in place moving forward.

There are still a great many questions that need answers. Can the new council find common ground with each other? Can the new council find a trail that creates compromise with the donor group so that everyone gets close to what they want? Can council bridge the current gap between those that support the Alternative Master Plan and those that oppose? Is the donor group willing to work with the new council?

The answers are not always easy to find.

It’s easy to say everyone should be able to agree that progress is necessary for a city to survive. The question is, can both sides come to an agreement on how that progress looks? And can it be done sooner rather than later?

The Lakeside Park Alternative Master Plan story has gone on for nearly 18 months and the next chapter begins next week Wednesday. Only the authors know how many more pages will be written. And can they turn this cliff-hanger into a dream come true for everyone.