The following Letter to the Editor regarding this agenda item was submitted by Molly Salafia.
I noticed on tonight's Council agenda is $15K allotted for the "lighter quicker cheaper" amenities for Harbor Park. Although 15k dwarfs other appropriations by many thousands, need I remind the council the average income per family in Middletown is $50k according to the last census. The $15K should be treated as delicately as if were a six figure appropriation, seeing many families struggle in the wake of an unstable economy and this administration's increased local taxes.
I ask specifically what this appropriation will be used for- plastic furniture shown in the presentation by the firm Project for Public Spaces would not work well in Middletown. If granted, the public's money should be used for amenities that will last multiple seasons & events, and can be utilized by park goers with out monitoring by public safety. The pipe rails & wood benches at Harbor Park are already in place, however, appear to need maintenance. Before more money is spent on more "things", why not restore what is already in place? More "things" also means more storage required. A budget for amenities such as this can be funded through dockage fees which the City does not currently charge for but should. Another question- shouldn't routine maintenance to Harbor Park already be budgeted for?
Unaddressed by Public Spaces were events already taking place annually at Harbor Park such as the Regatta, a gospel music weekend, yoga, and a variety of other events by local groups. While some of these events have a large turn out, others do not. The City should find out why. Perhaps before purchasing for unspecified events, someone should address attendance to current activities and find out what can be done to make the most of these scheduled activities. That in my eyes is the essence of "lighter faster cheaper."
The public bathrooms at Harbor Park are perpetually locked, with the exception of the Fourth of July. Before the City purchases public "toys" to make the riverfront friendlier, why not make the riverfront friendlier with finding a way to have usable bathrooms? Let's solve current issues before new ones are invented.
Lastly, as acting chair of P&Z, it has come to my attention that we are awaiting a hearing with representatives from the DOT to discuss improvements the ramp at Exit 17 by Harbor Park which has burdened Middletown for nearly two decades as a death trap. Until the presentation, we are unsure of the impact & timeline of these improvements. Common sense tells me that construction would be noisy and possibly make Harbor Park unpleasant for leisurely activities for a time; therefore; until such timeline for DOT improvements is put in place, personally, I would encourage the council to delay appropriations for temporary leisure based improvements to the park.
Sincerely, Molly Salafia
Vice Chair Planning & Zoning