Port aldermen agree to spend $81,486 for upgrade that will cover western portion of lakefront promenade
A long-awaited railing will be installed along half the promenade at Port Washington’s Coal Dock Park this spring.
After a long debate Feb. 22, the Common Council unanimously agreed to pay Badger Railing $81,486 for the upgrade.
The company’s bid was the lowest of four submitted for the project, which will cover the western 588 feet of the promenade.
But the railing, which has been hotly debated since the park opened in 2013, continued to be a hot topic for aldermen.
Ald. Dave Larson opened the discussion by saying, “I’m still not sure I’m fully in favor of this railing.”
While the city will be using $45,000 in grants, $29,000 from its Coal Dock Park borrowing and $4,000 in donations to cover the majority of the cost, it will still be spending $15,000 of its own money for the railing, Larson said.
“In terms of priorities and where we’re putting our money, I’m just not sure this is where we should spend our money,” he said.
He noted that there are no railings along the breakwater, which is narrow and exposed to the rough lake and traversed by numerous residents and visitors of all ages.
Navy Pier in Chicago, the San Antonio Riverwalk and other facilities don’t have railings, Larson added.
Ald. Mike Ehrlich asked whether the city would be open to additional liability if it made “a conscious decision” not to install the railing. That’s not the case, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.
Ald. Kevin Rudser, a member of the Parks and Recreation Board, said the committee wants to see the railing installed, noting it has pushed for that to happen since the park opened.
If anyone were to fall off the promenade, he said, they would travel 18 feet into water with a swift current, Rudser said.
But while there was a significant outcry for the railing the first year the park was open, he said, “Since then it’s kind of gone away. Does time show we don’t need it?”
City Administrator Mark Grams said the biggest issue may be the idea of turning down a state grant for which the city has applied.
If the city changed its mind at a later date and decided to install a railing, he said, “You’re never going to get a grant for that railing. Why would the state give you another grant when you already gave one back?”
The city does plan to apply for another grant to help pay to extend the railing along the easternmost 560 feet of the promenade, Grams said.
Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, chairman of the Coal Dock Park Committee, noted that the committee originally decided not to install a railing along the promenade for two reasons: the 18-foot walkway was so wide members felt it was not needed because the public would stay far from the edge, and because it envisioned boats mooring there and requiring unfettered access to the dock.
“Originally we envisioned boat traffic to be a lot more intense than it is,” Vanden Noven said.
If the railing is installed, he said, it would be set four feet back from the edge with gates to allow boats to moor along the promenade.
Vanden Noven said he could see both sides of the issue, but acknowledged his wife refuses to allow their family, which includes two young children, to walk the promenade because of the lack of a railing.
Mayor Tom Mlada noted that the organizers of festivals held in Coal Dock Park have said a railing would be beneficial.
“We should probably be consistent and take the grant,” Vanden Noven said.
Ald. Paul Neumyer acknowledged the difficulty in obtaining grant funds in making the motion to accept the grant.
“We’re trying to get young families down there. I think it’s a good preventative measure,” Neumyer said.
The contract calls for the railing to be installed by June 30.