PORTAGE | The Portage City Council on Tuesday voted down the proposed $3.5 million park bond issue.
The vote was not totally along party lines.
Democratic City Council members Liz Modesto, Pat Clem, Matt Scheuer and Sue Lynch voted to deny the issue. Democrat Mark Oprisko and Republicans John Cannon and Ted Uzelac Jr. supported the bond issue.
The majority Democrats said money should not be going to the parks when there are more pressing needs in the city.
"I'll put safety in this community before entertainment," said Clem, saying Portage needs improvements to streets, sidewalks and pump stations that are "ready to fall apart" before spending money on parks.
Modesto said the park department is just paying off a bond issue that provided improvements to the parks.
"It is not that any council person wants to see the parks fail. It is a matter of priorities," Scheuer said.
Cannon defended the need for improvements to the parks, saying facilities need to be maintained and the money needs to be invested.
The majority of the money was earmarked for projects at Woodland and Countryside parks.
Oprisko defended his vote by saying the issue has been in the works for months and has been discussed. He asked his fellow Democrats not to deny it, but table the issue if there were additional questions.
Director of Public Works A.J. Monroe also asked the bond issue be tabled so that council members — who reviewed the proposal last month during a first reading of the ordinance — could have their questions answered.
Monroe said the issue could be pared down, but there were some projects within it, such as reroofing the Sycamore Hall at Woodland Park, that need to be addressed.
He also told members if they had questions before Tuesday night, they should have asked and the purpose of the issue, while laid out in a written plan months ago, would have been explained.
"With some time, I think we can answer some of your questions about priorities. With time, we can give you a prioritized list of projects," Monroe said.