May 19, 2022 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend Park & Rec Commission will finally get a kick at the can as one of the agenda items during its meeting Thursday, May 26, 2022, will be to weigh in on the future of Regner Park Pond. The public will also be allowed to speak. The meeting will be held in the council chambers at West Bend City Hall at 1115 S. Main Street, West Bend, WI.
Earlier this week the West Bend common council voted 5-2 (with alderwoman Tracy Ahrens absent) to seek bids on what it would cost to fill a portion of Regner Park Pond to turn it into a 3-foot wading pond. The early cost estimate was about $100,000.
Alderman voting in favor of putting the project out for bid included: Dist. 1 John Butschlick, Dist. 2 Mark Allen, Dist. 3 Brett Bergquist, Dist. 7 Justice Madl, and Dist. 8 Meghann Kennedy.
The crux of the issue, according to the parks director, is the inability to hire lifeguards.
Mike Staral is head of the West Bend Parks Commission. When questioned what other options they reviewed he said, it was never brought to them for consideration. “We have not had a Parks Commission meeting on it yet. Yes, it was supposed to go to us first and then the council but that didn’t happen,” said Staral.
Although the Park & Rec Commission meeting agenda has not yet been posted by the city, Dist. 4 alderman Randy Koehler confirmed the meeting is Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome, and the public will be allowed to speak.
After Monday’s vote, where Koehler and Dist. 5 aldermen Jed Dolnick cast dissenting votes, Koehler vented in a letter to the editor on WashingtonCountyInsider.com about how people can easily bitch about an issue on social media but no one takes the time to actually be proactive.
“If anyone truly cared you would have been there, you’re all so good at typing, why did I receive 1 email regarding the topic?,” wrote Koehler.
Below is a list of aldermen and their contact numbers and emails.
Click [email protected] to email alderman John Butschlick
Click [email protected] to email alderman Mark Allen
Click [email protected] to email alderman Brett Bergquist
Click [email protected] to email alderman Randy Koehler
Click [email protected] to email alderman Jed Dolnick
Click [email protected] to email alderwoman Tracy Ahrens
Click [email protected] to email alderman Justic Madl
District 8 Meghann Kennedy has resigned. Her last day is May 22, 2022. The council will eventually ask taxpayers in Dist. 8 to submit a letter of interest to represent constituents in that district. Click HERE for Dist. 8 map. The next election for that position is April 2023.
Members of the Park & Rec Commission are listed below along with contact information.
Chairman: Mike Staral – 414-588-6561 [email protected]
Randy Koehler, alderperson – 262-808-6675 [email protected]
Allen Carter – [email protected]
Michael Chevalier [email protected]
Michael Weston [email protected]
Craig Walker [email protected]
A couple notes:
- In the past Regner Park Pond has been referred to as the “crown jewel” of the community. The term has also been used for the Historic West Bend Theatre.
- According to the city, any lifeguard applications received after today’s meeting will probably be shifted to fill other open positions with the parks department, which is also looking for staff to maintain the parks this summer.
- Dist. 4 alderman Randy Koehler said he couldn’t support the proposal because the item came to the council “way too quick.” “We basically got this notice on Friday and here it is Monday and we’re expected to make a decision that impacts the entire community. My opinion is we close it this year. We’re making a kneejerk reaction to do something that none of us know what’s going to happen a year from now. Next year we may come back and say there’s more interest now let’s spend $150,000 to remove the fill. This is way too quick. Let this settle and look at other alternatives.”
- Dist. 2 alderman Mark Allen asked why not postpone the decision. He also asked if it was possible to dredge it (the compact fill) out and the answer was “sure” but it was anticipated it could cost more as everything is going up in price.
- Click HERE for some Regner Park Pond memories from You Know You Are from West Bend if…
- Removing the diving platform/raft would allow the city to reduce the number of lifeguards at the pond by two.
- The initial story regarding the proposal to potentially use compact fill in the pond was published Saturday, May 14, 2022.
- Dist. 5 alderman Jed Dolnick asked if it was possible to shrink the area of the pond through the use of flotation devices so fewer lifeguards would be necessary. He was told it would be nearly impossible to do that.
- “I have to agree with alderman Koehler, this is an irrevocable step once we put the dirt or sand in there… we’re not going back and I’m not comfortable with doing it as the immediate solution. As bad as closing it would be for the summer I think it’s the lesser of the two evils then what’s being suggested. I think it’s also bizarre we went to the great lengths to restore the beach house and retain the architectural features of the beach house in recognition of its historical significance and then we’re talking about doing this to the pond. Maybe ultimately it will have to be done but I’m not comfortable doing it right now,” said Dist. 5 alderman Jed Dolnick.
- Over the past year the City has solicited and accepted over $1 million in donations for a “community-minded project” to refurbish the beach house at Regner which was originally built in 1935.
- It was noted Yahr Park and Lake Lenwood, both in Washington County, are lakes that do not have lifeguards but have signs posted to “swim at your own risk.” Regner Park pond reportedly operates under a different standard since it is a man-made pond.
- Out of the hundreds of people who chimed in on social media with suggestions and gripes regarding the future of the pond and the pending plan only one person showed up in person at the council meeting to show their concern about the issue.
- Neighbors have weighed in on social media with their thoughts.
- There is an in-ground pool at the West Bend High School. We reached out for the schedule for public swim. Below is the answer. As of May 18, 2022 no update has been provided.
- This is a working story, and more information will be added when details become available.