Niles OKs money for work at park

NILES — City council gave its approval Wednesday for appropriating $11,000 for improvements and additions to Waddell Park this year.

Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz said a walking trail, dog park and security cameras will be installed before winter at the park. City employees will do the work.

The city received a $67,500 reimbursement grant for the projects, which will continue through June 2019 and also include a disc golf area, handicapped accessible play area with new safety mulch and other enhancements. The city provides the funds now, but will be reimbursed by the state grant.

Third Ward Councilwoman Linda Marchese asked if more women could be included next time on the committee that reviewed the 750 park surveys and put together the final plan.

The group that reviewed the surveys included Mientkiewicz, park supervisor Bob Burke, and the park board. The mayor said the final plan was based on what residents wanted, with the list being prioritized.

“We had public input from the residents,” Mientkiewicz said, noting surveys included both male and female responders.

“I was just concerned with what female input there was on the plans,” Marchese said.

Marchese also asked about improvements and cleaning up the park restrooms. She said the restrooms should be improved before a dog park is added.

“I love animals, but I don’t feel we need a dog park there,” Marchese said.

She suggested getting an ice skating area set up for the winter instead.

“If there is any extra money, I hope this can be done,” Marchese said.

The grant originally was going to be used for improvements to the Waddell Park pool, but it was decided by officials to be used for other park projects.

In another matter, Mientkiewicz said approximately 3,000 water meters in the city have been updated and replaced, with letters being sent out asking residents to contact the city so the remaining meters can be replaced.

“We are probably at the half way point of getting the meters replaced. We are still running into a brick wall with people refusing to call to schedule an appointment to get meters replaced for one reason or another. We are formulating a plan of what to do next if people do not comply,” he said.

Informational hangers on the project were left on front doors. Officials said the process to replace a meter takes about 15 minutes. Mientkiewicz said he believes workers are available between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and also Saturdays.

The new water meters can be read through an online service, making it unnecessary for workers to read them in person, and the Niles service and billing departments should be able to get daily, hourly or minute-to-minute readings, as well as immediate leak detection, when the new system is fully operational.

More than 6,000 meters were purchased five years ago and then placed into storage because the city was unable to start the project with the onset of fiscal emergency.