Sale of Southside Park back on track

Published 4:29 pm Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Cassopolis Village Council is once again ready to sell Southside Park to Community Mills. The park will be relocated to East Street, the site of the former community gardens. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

The Cassopolis Village Council is once again ready to sell Southside Park to Community Mills. The park will be relocated to East Street, the site of the former community gardens. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

The sale of Southside Park to Community Mills appears to be back on track.

The Cassopolis Village Council at its monthly workshop Monday night decided to go ahead with the sale of the park for $15,000 to Community Mills as part of its expansion.

After hearing from several members of the community at its regular monthly meeting Jan. 11, the board tabled the sale of the property while weighing its options, which included moving the park to a new location.

Trustee William Blount, who was absent from the Jan. 11 meeting, said he had personally gone out and spoken with eight residents on the south side of the village and that five of them were not in favor of selling the property.

The council was advised by Emilie Sarratore of LaGrow Consulting, which handles the village manager duties, that they unanimously approved the sale at its July 13 meeting as part of the site plan for the Community Mills expansion.

“It is something that was voted on by you guys and approved by all of you for them,” Sarratore said. “So now we have kind of put them in a tough situation by saying we told you that you could do this, but now we are saying no. I just wanted to make sure we remember what we told them so that it can be part of the discussion as we move forward.”

Sarratore also told the board that she and Ben Anderson, Department of Public Works supervisor, recently ran across a file that discussed the water runoff problem on that property, which has been a concern of citizens for a number of years.

After looking at a map of properties near the current park that could be used for as a replacement park, the board settled on the property on East Street, which was the site of the community garden in 2013.

The property already has electricity and water and is currently fenced in.

The board agreed that would be a good site to put the new park and that the money from the sale would be earmarked for the new Southside Park.

“If you put the park there, I would withdraw my objections to the sale,” said William Curry, who was an outspoken proponent of keeping Southside Park.

David Johnson, the village’s pro-tem, said he had an entirely different concern about keeping the park.

“There is a problem there,” he said. “Community Mills have these tanks. I do not know what they store in the buildings up above that hill. I do not know if it is bad stuff, but I wouldn’t want my grandchildren playing there because if something accidentally spills without their knowledge and rain washes it down into the park … I would never let my grandchildren play there because I don’t know if they would get sick.

“To me, if we are going to keep it as a park, we need to figure up how to clean it all up and keep it safe. If we are not going to keep it as a park, but not sell it, then we need to figure out how to make it a gateway into the community. Either way, I do not think that park is clean enough for our children to play in it anyway.”

Trustee Eugene Wagner summed up the conversation by saying, “It is not a question of having a park on the south side, but what is the best spot to put the park. From what I am hearing, this is not the ideal spot for it.”

Trustee Cynthia Jackson-Ash wrapped up the discussion portion about the park by urging the council to pick a spot and begin moving forward with a plan to replace the park.

“I’m for getting a new location on the south side,” she said. “My thought was, let’s pick a spot tonight. We can talk about what happened in the past until we are blue in the face. We need to move.

“I had called Dianna (McGrew) and asked her to show us the properties that are available right now so that we can select a site, and once we select the site, then at our next workshop have Ben come in and tell us what we can do with that $15,000.”

The next step for the council is to formally vote to sell the park to Community Mills at its next regular meeting Feb. 8.

The Parks and Recreation Board, headed by trustee Kathy Yoder, will have its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

Since the board has decided to move forward with the sale, village officials can now begin planning the relocation of the park, pending the outcome of the vote.