- A recently approved budget for the City of Neenah had one local raising an eyebrow at one item in particular: the development of 30 acres of land called "Arrowhead Park" for $1.96 million.
- The money for this development comes from grants, which the mayor breaks down.
- The mayor says she is interested in hearing citizens' concerns as she works with the community to solidify Arrowhead Park plans.
Personal budgets can be tricky enough. So, when you plan one around a whole city, a lot is involved, and it can be pretty confusing.
After I heard from a concerned citizen, I reached out to the city of Neenah to learn about what appears to be nearly $2 million of investment into 30 acres known as Arrowhead Park.
“We need to focus on our needs. Not our wants,” said Scott Becher.
Becher lives in Neenah, and after the city approved its budget on Nov. 14, he says he’s worried that too much money is going toward Arrowhead Park.
“There is real issues that need to be resolved, and is Arrowhead Park something that would be, something that the city should think about? But it should be thinking about it in the right way,” Becher said.
“What would be the right way, in your opinion?” I asked him.
“I would involve and as, like, as previous mayor Kaufert did, I would involve the public,” replied Becher.
Neenah’s Mayor Jane Lang says public involvement isn’t lacking in this project.
“We've had community input. We've had members of the community on the task force on our internal technical team. We've had multiple multiple opportunities. I sat down with members of the community in different small groups,” said Lang.
Becher voiced concerns over the fact that Neenah’s budget appears to be spending $1.96 million on this park.
But according to Lang, about $1.2 million of that was approved in 2018.
“This isn't new money that we're appropriating right now for this project. It's money that has carried forward because we haven't taken the steps to implement what we'd like to implement at Arrowhead,” said Lang.
The remaining $700,000 comes from an ARPA grant.
“We also have $2.1 million of ARPA money. And we've used that for the last three years in our budget. There's no more ARPA money. How do we balance our budget?” said Becher.
“One of the things that we have to remember with ARPA dollars is they have to be applied. We have to make a plan for how we're using them by the end of this year. So, that was a little bit of a constraint for us,” said Lang.
A point they both raised is the need for better accessibility to the area.
“How will medical personnel get into this park with one access point?” Becher worried.
“At this point in time, we have an at-grade crossing over the train tracks that is not ideal. And so we've talked about creating a pedestrian and bicycle access bridge over that section,” Lang said.
The City of Neenah's numbers show the investment into the park, which lies just off part of the Loop the Lake Trail, will make a splash.
“She said we average 1,000 people that come and use this, like, trail,” said Becher, raising doubts about estimates of the trail’s use.
Three city officials said that the estimate comes from trail counters.
Becher says he raises these issues because he cares about this city, a place he’s lived since 1967.
“A lot of people in this community care. ‘Neenah with pride’ is a very big thing,” said Becher.
And he agrees that some developments at Arrowhead Park could be good.
“I am in favor of having a very nice activity building,” Becher said.
Mayor Lang says that this kind of feedback is important because the plans for Arrowhead aren’t concrete yet.
“A conceptual master plan is just that: this is a concept. This is what we're thinking could be a possibility here,” said Lang.
She says working together is the whole point.
"That's my job, is to serve the community, and I'm happy to do it, and I love doing it,” Lang said.