Pickleball courts, book drop, holiday wreaths: How to spend millions in BG ‘rescue’ money | News
From pickleball courts to dog parks to community partnerships, Bowling Green City Council on Thursday night heard a variety of suggestions on how to potentially use the remainder of its American Rescue Plan Act funds.
A total of 13 different proposals were presented during the committee of the whole meeting.
“This forum is another opportunity for individuals and organizations to share their ARPA funding ideas with city council,” said Council President Mark Hollenbaugh.
He said that no decisions would be made at the meeting.
The public also had an opportunity to make their voices heard on the subject via an online questionnaire earlier this year; a release from the city stated that more than 950 were submitted. Written ideas for proposals can also still be sent to the city by May 31 to [email protected]
The city was allocated $7.3 million from ARPA; the funds must be committed by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.
To date, city council has approved ARPA investments including residential paving ($3 million); MARCS communication radios to improve public safety communications ($350,000); a City Park paving project which will include road widening, a walking path, and security improvements such as cameras and lighting ($250,000); inclusive playground support for the Wood County Plays project at Carter Park ($100,000); housing grants ($300,000 over three years); and lost revenue replacement for the city’s pool and waterpark complex ($20,000).
Bob Kreienkamp of the Bowling Green Pickleball Club said they’re seeking nearly $340,000 for the construction of courts at Carter Park.
His presentation extolled the fitness benefits of the game. With 70 million Americans expected to be over the age of 65 by 2030, “it is important that we make these later years as vital, healthy and enjoyable as possible.
“Access to pickleball courts will make Bowling Green a much more desirable place for seniors to buy a home and be part of a growing community. Access to pickleball courts would keep local players from driving out of town several days a week to play. It also keeps their money in local businesses instead of towns that have pickleball court access,” Kreienkamp said.
He said that the parking lot near the water tower at Carter Park is a location that meets the criteria for six pickleball courts.
The base work is set for heavy vehicles so it should be fine for pickleball courts, he said. With the clearing of some brush, there is room for a 20-foot wide shelter and angle parking on both sides of the exit road for more than 40 vehicles. Restrooms and lighting would also have to be added.
The projected cost for the courts listed in the presentation – which Kreienkamp said should only be used as talking points – including the fencing and lighting, would be $226,698. The projected cost for the adjacent parking project would be $111,244, for a total of $337,942.
Kathy Mull, executive director of the Cocoon, which provides services to survivors of domestic and sexual abuse in the county, asked for ARPA funds to complete the final phase of renovations at the headquarters.
Mull said that they purchased the building, a former commercial restaurant and banquet center, in 2014 and didn’t at the time have the funding to renovate it all at once. Renovations were divided up into phases. Phase one, providing additional emergency bed space, was completed in 2017. Phase two was completed in 2020, providing more programming assistance. Phase three would provide dedicated, private, confidential space to provide services to people not living in the shelter. Mull said currently they have to meet with them out in the community.
She said the entire renovation project is $1.7 million, and that they are asking for $325,000 from the city to finish the work, including ADA accessibility and security upgrades.
Mull said that in 2021, the Cocoon served 818 survivors in Wood County, with 60% of them coming from Bowling Green.
Raul Ascunce proposed that the city allocate up to $200,000 “to build well-appointed, accessible, walkable dog parks within the city proper.”
“Our city government listens to its citizens, analyzes data and works to provide the needs of its residents,” Ascunce said. “This is clearly evident by the decision of city council last week to amend the five-year city master plan for city parks to include the consideration of ‘opportunities to repurpose public land for off-leash dog parks and to work with citizens to establish walkable dog parks within the city.
“Granting ARPA funds for dog parks in Bowling Green would be a great way to create desirable facilities that will attract current residents, prospective residents, college students, and tourists as well,” he said later in his presentation. “We can continue to help move our city forward by using ARPA funds to build well-appointed, accessible, walkable dog park facilities.”
Wood County District Public Library Director Michael Penrod requested $100,000 in ARPA funding for construction-related projects at the library.
“The city and the library have a long history of being good neighbors and working together,” he said. “The most recent example of this is the coordinating work we have undertaken related to the construction of the new city building. The library has committed to making changes to its building and site that will benefit all, including relocating the drive-up book drop, blending our adjacent parking lots for improved public safety, and in ceding property to use as a green space.”
Penrod said the $100,000 would be used to cover construction costs for relocating the book drop to West Court Street ($47,000); $10,000 for the design and construction to build a doorway from the library’s children’s department to the new green space what will be located between the library and the new city building; and $53,000 of the estimated $125,000 in parking lot modifications the library will be undertaking in 2023.
“None of the above was on the library’s radar until late 2020 when plans for the new city building were announced,” Penrod said.
“No one involved with the library thinks that the city has made the library do anything,” he said later. “Every agreement we’ve made, every step that we’ve taken in our partnerships, is the right thing to do.”
Tony Vetter, director of the Downtown Bowling Green Special Improvement District, asked for funding for four projects.
He said the first is $40,000 for the purchase of new holiday decorations, saying “we want to create a vibrant holiday atmosphere that welcomes people to experience downtown during the holidays, which in turn means more foot traffic.”
The cost would include 6-foot wreaths surrounding the top of the light poles, vinyl holiday banners and triangular wreaths on dual-light poles.
The second is $40,000-$50,000 for a downtown speaker system. He said that Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick “supports the use of these speakers as a safety project for the downtown community,” and they could be used to notify people in times of emergency, such as a tornado, gas line break or fire. The speakers could also be used to play music.
The third is $100,000 for an alley revitalization project, focusing on Dog Leg Alley, next to Finders and the Amish Deli, and between Juniper and Beckett’s. The project, Vetter said, would “incorporate pergolas, artwork, lighting, seating, and sculpture into these areas” and “make these destinations unique gateways between our parking lots and downtown,” similar to the proposed Gateway project connecting Bowling Green State University and the downtown.
The fourth project is $100,000 to fund a series of grants up to $10,000 for downtown building facade improvements. Vetter said similar such grants were awarded in 1976 and 2000 in the city “and it spread and revitalized the city. You may spend $5,000 to $10,000 in a grant, but the owner will end up spending over $50,000, but it is the incentive that starts the revitalization.”
Kati Thompson, executive director of Bowling Green Economic Development, requested $50,000 to $75,000 “in one-time funds to develop a feasibility analysis for an innovation and entrepreneurship accelerator,” according to her presentation.
She said the money would be used as matching funds for a potential Economic Development Administration grant for the feasibility analysis, for total funding of $100,000-$150,000.
“This would be a starting point that would hopefully lead to some fantastic results for our community,” Thompson said.
She said the long-term outcomes of the project would be talent attraction and retention, small business growth and development, and diversification of the local economy.
The feasibility analysis, Thompson said in the presentation, would examine “the demand for entrepreneurial and small business services, space needs and availability, programming options, governance models, and funding and sustainability plans. The feasibility analysis will help the community focus its innovation and entrepreneurship activities on industries of competitive advantage for the city of Bowling Green.” Additionally, the analysis itself is a foundational step to subsequently pursuing funding from the EDA to start the accelerator itself.
Other presenters included:
• Councilman Greg Robinette, who noted he was relaying a request from the Wood County Committee on Aging and the Wood County Senior Center; he said representatives could not attend Thursday’s meeting. He said the groups are seeking $10,000 to help equip a woodworking shop which is planned for the basement at the senior center.
• Shakir Blackett, co-founder of Meridian Rentals LLC, who sought $80,000-$100,000 to fund a micro-mobility project in the city. He said that micro-mobility refers to a range of small, lightweight vehicles – in this case, scooters. His company’s goal is to provide affordable transportation and access to a micro-mobility network for the community and Bowling Green State University students.
• Will Airhart, who asked that council consider a partnership with the school district and community members for new community tennis courts at the Bowling Green High School. He said the current six courts at the school “are struggling;” some teams have come to play games and subsequently refused due to the poor state of the courts. He suggested a new tennis court facility on the same footprint with eight to 10 courts, which would allow events to be hosted there. He asked for $300,000 in funding.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity to have an asset in BG again that I think would make this certainly a more desirable and livable community,” Airhart said.
• Kevin Vollmar, of non-profit Gas Disc Golf, is seeking $20,000 for improvements to the current disc golf course at Carter Park, including a revised layout, new baskets, new course signage, and new trees, greenery and natural obstacles, among other items. He said that the sport is growing in the city.
“We want to be a great community resource and continue to grow our relationships with the community and the businesses,” Vollmar said.
• Mary Vollmar, who said she was seeking $415,700 for a block of grant funds to be made available to privately-owned businesses in the downtown. She discussed the issues downtown businesses have faced in recent years, including the pandemic shutdowns, saying “now we are going to a place where they’re working to recover. And they will recover, come hell or high water… but it’s going to be a long road, because they have to catch up with” issues like maintenance, increased pay for employees, inflation, and decreased hours of operations due to fewer workers.
• Jennifer Karches, who suggested ARPA funds be used to purchase a piece of interactive art called “musical swings,” an urban-scale collective instrument which makes music when people swing together on the apparatus. The piece is manufactured by a design studio based in Montreal, Canada, she said. The price of a six-swing apparatus is $320,000, excluding shipping and installation.
• Dan Kitz, who asked that a 5-foot fence with a self-closing gate be installed at the south end of Martindale Road in the Westgate subdivision. The fence, he said, would guard against the deer population from the nearby Wintergarder/St. John’s Woods Nature Preserve. The deer, he said, have been eating and trampling flowers and other plantings, and rubbing off the bark of young trees. He also suggested a fence extending to the east and west boundaries of the preserve. When asked for a cost estimate, Kitz said he did not have figures, but estimated it at $5,000.
Near the close of the meeting, Councilman Bill Herald noted he’d kept a rough running tally of the requests, and said that about $2.5 million had been asked for Thursday night. He noted that there had also been other suggestions made via the earlier online questionnaire.
“I would assume that what we need to do is study all of this,” he said.
“We’re going to continue,” Hollenbaugh said, “and as Bill said, there are things that we’ve received that were not brought up during this meeting tonight. This was just one source of input that we’re receiving. We’ll continue to accept these things til the end of May. Once that window closes, we’ll continue the process of organizing all of the information and shortly thereafter we will begin having meetings … where we will be discussing all these different things and making hard choices.”