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County delays action on O’Donnell Park resolutions

By: Matt Taub, [email protected]//March 26, 2015//

County delays action on O’Donnell Park resolutions

By: Matt Taub, [email protected]//March 26, 2015//

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The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors postponed action on two resolutions concerning O’Donnell Park to give the county attorney time to resolve several questions the legislation would present.

The board laid over a resolution Thursday that would have offered a sale or lease of O’Donnell Park to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee County’s Parks, Energy and Environment Committee had rejected the resolution earlier in the day, but the full board still considered it. A separate resolution, which would ready the park for private redevelopment and a possible sale, was approved by the committee last week. But rather than vote on the proposal, the full board referred it to Paul Bargren, corporation counsel.

Bargren was asked to resolve several legal questions presented by the many dueling park-related resolutions, amendments, and substitute resolutions that have been proposed by county officials. Among the matters needing an answer was whether various resolutions calling for separate requests for proposals on the same property would conflict with each other. There was also a call for clarification of the legal relationship between Milwaukee County and the Milwaukee Art Museum, to which the county may offer the park in a lease or sale.

The resolution involving the Milwaukee Art Museum was only introduced on Tuesday. It would have allowed the museum to enter into discussions with the county for a lease or sale plan that would make sure the park remains set aside for public use. The resolution was introduced by Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, along with Supervisors Gerry Broderick and Pat Jursik.

Testifying at Thursday’s committee hearing, Daniel Keegan, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum,  said that 76 percent of the museum’s visitors stow their cars in O’Donnell Park’s parking garage. He said the museum, which is adjacent to the park, has a long-term interest in preserving the parking structure.

“Developers come and go. They create things for bottom-line profit or take investment opportunities, wring the profits out of them, and walk away,” he said. “We would not walk away.”

An amendment by Supervisor Deanna Alexander, later withdrawn, would have given the art museum 30 days to present a plan, but would then have put out a request for proposals to private developers. The amendment would have maintained the park’s classification as “surplus” property. But a sunset provision would have had it re-designated as non-surplus after six months. A separate amendment before the full county board would have expanded the time frame to 60 days. That proposed change, along with two other amendments, was held back to allow a review of the legal questions presented.

Separate from the resolutions now being debated, the board voted 12-4 on Feb. 5 in favor of having a full audit look for ways to revitalize O’Donnell Park as a publicly owned and operated asset.

In December, the Board of Supervisors voted 9-8 against selling the park to Northwestern Mutual for $14 million.


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