Instead the New Buffalo City Council contracted with Fleis and
To the Editor:
Below is a timeline of the events leading up to the mess at New Buffalo's Oselka Park.
1n2006, the New Buffalo citizens passed a millage tax of approximately $456,000 that
we were told would pay for Oselka Park's improvements. Even though the cost of the
improvements went well beyond this amount, the generous and trusting people of New
Buffalo renewed the millage in May of 2011.
1n2007, city council member Rusty Geisler sided with the then mayor and overturned the
Parks Committee's well researched recommendation to contract with Landscape
Architects and Planners although their bid was reasonable and the firm had a proven track
record of creating parks that were economical, enduring, and in harmony with nature.
Later New Buffalo Towrrship hired this company and the New Buffalo Township Park is
proof that the firm provides exceptional work.
Instead the New Buffalo City Council contracted with Fleis and Vandenbrink, a company
that specializedin streetscapes, not parks. In protest, I resigned from the Parks Board
mainly because Fleis and Vandenbrink was expensive and did not have the proper
expertise. Mr. Geisler's contractor created an elaborate 1.5 million dollar Oselka Park
plan which immediately had a28Yo overage.
In 2008, the mayor was ousted and Susan Maroko was elected. With a majority in place,
she along with the new mayor had the opporhrnity to fire Fleis and Vandenbrink
Instead, Oselka Park ended up with an ill designed$427,000 plus pavilion with an
interior that continues to be covered with bird feces and has a lealiing fireplace. The
original millage covered the cost ofjust this one project.
In 2010, the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board, Warren Peterson was elected to
the city council. He has not wavered in his support of Fleis and Vandenbrink although
various issues concerning the quality and expense of the contractual company w.ere
apparent even when he was on the parks board.
In 2011, Fleis and Vandenbrink began Phase 2 of Oselka Park which included the
destruction of most of the trees and a ball field. In early August of this year,I emailed
council member Susan Maroko with my concerns that it appeared the park contractors
were wasting time moving dirt back and forth and in and out of the park, hills were being
made then removed, then made again, then removed again and overall there didn't seem
to be any plan or coordination. She responded stating that she had complete confidence
in the contractors and that in a few months, it would be a beautiful park.
In the third week of October, I emailed Ryan Fellows, Parks Project Manager about my
concerns. After a second email of inquiry, he responded by explaining the nuances of
dirt and the need to have the one remaining hill layered with different qualities of dirt.
He assured me that everything was going according to plan.
So in November, Mayor Geisler is again shocked that there is a cost overage, the park
remains incomplete, and the mess will need to be revisited in the spring. To regain
control of this quagmire before more money is dumped into the park, the city council
needs to fire Fleis and Vandenbrink. The company that designed New Buffalo Township
Park, Landscape Architects and Planners, should be contacted to see if the mess at Oselka
Park can somehow be salvaged. Our park has been stripped of trees and will continue to
have old playground equipment with the funds from the park millage and the Pokagon
funding going to pay for a large hill, lots of asphalt or concrete, and two or three huge
craters (or rain gardens as Fleis and Vandenbrink calls them). The only council member
who has supported this terrible decision making and remained in office for the duration is
Mayor Rusty Geisler. Maybe he's the problem.