Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Crowley Vetoes Downtown Roller Rink

Roller rink in Red Arrow Park won't happen this summer, but idea may not be dead.

By - Aug 2nd, 2022 10:10 am
Red Arrow Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Red Arrow Park. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The roller rink in Red Arrow Park is not going to happen this summer, at least not the way it’s been proposed.

The Milwaukee County Board approved funding for Milwaukee County Parks to build a protective barrier on top of the concrete slab in Red Arrow Park used for ice skating in the winter.

Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley vetoed the legislation, returning it to the board.

The county executive’s objection was not to the project, as he explained in his veto message, but with the way the board directed it to move forward. Specifically, the county executive noted that the timeline was unrealistic and that the funding source was not sustainable and would increase the year’s projected budget deficit.

“I do not object to the general principle of this resolution – in fact, I applaud the Board’s continued willingness to consider out-of-the-box ideas on how to utilize our world-class parks to maximize our constituents’ experience,” he wrote.

Crowley said “this resolution contemplated an extremely compressed timeline” and would add an “even greater burden on our already overburdened and under-resourced parks department.” Crowley also noted, as Urban Milwaukee previously reported, that the funding was based on an informal cost estimate that parks staff explicitly asked the board not to use for budgeting.

Crowley noted that parks staff told the board prior to the resolution being passed that the contractor, whose informal quote the board used to budget, could not begin work on a rink until next year, and that the lead time for procurement was three months.

What’s more, Crowley said “I am concerned by funding what will be an ongoing operational cost with our Appropriation for Contingency.” The contingency account is a pot of un-allocated money the county has historically used for projects outside of the annual budget, or to backfill budget deficits. The county is currently facing a projected $800,000 budget deficit for 2022, according to the Milwaukee County Comptroller, and that estimate is based on the assumption that all remaining funds in the contingency account will be used to offset the budget deficit. Every dollar spent out of contingency until the end of the year is another dollar added to the deficit. And every dollar the county is in deficit in 2022 will require a dollar cut from the 2023 budget.

“As you know, Milwaukee County operates in a long-term structural deficit – each time we propose new projects and programs without a sustainable funding source in place, we place the burden of covering those costs on our departments who are already having to do more with less,” Crowley said.

Chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson, author of the resolution, told the board at their July meeting, “There’s some information that we can’t do it this year” and “that was never the intention.”

Nicholson likened the project to shopping for prom, saying “you don’t start shopping for prom the day it’s supposed to happen.”

The resolution, however, directed parks to use $175,000 to “support a summer roller skating program at Red Arrow Park in July, August, and September of 2022.” Though it also said that the department should return to the board in December with a report “detailing how the funds were used to either implement the roller skating program in 2022, prepare to implement the roller skating program in 2023, or were otherwise used to make improvements in Red Arrow Park that would support roller skating.”

The board called a vote on Crowley’s veto, attempting to overturn it, but did not receive the 12 votes necessary. Supervisors Patti Logsdon, Shawn Rolland, Willie Johnson, Jr., Kathleen Vincent, Tony Staskunas, Liz Sumner, Deanna Alexander and Steve Taylor voted against overturning the veto.

Crowley, in his message, asked the board to reconsider the project in the 2022 budget.

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