Brecheisen balks at Baker’s complex plans
A proposal to the Baldwin City Council by Baker University officials for the continued expansion of the Charlie Richard Sports Complex which would include closing one city street and restricting traffic on another brought a spirited discussion Monday night.
Bill McCollum, vice president of university relations, explained that the project would double the $1.8 million already spent on upgrading and renovating Liston Stadium and the nearby baseball and softball fields.
"As we look at the Charlie Richards Sports Complex, Baker University has invested $1.8 million. Once we are done, we will have invested $3.6 million," said McCollum. "There are some concerns we want the council to look at."
First were safety and parking issues which are both solved, from Baker's perspective, if Fremont Street from First to Second streets is closed and if Second Street from High to Fremont streets has restricted traffic. For seasonal events, McCollum said that block would be gated and closed. When events weren't underway, the street would be open. He said it would make the area much safer for pedestrian traffic.
But, those weren't the only items.
"Finally, a major concern of ours is the erosion on High Street," he said.
McCollum said the drainage ditch just north of High Street to the south of the softball stadium is eroding to the point that it's cutting into the stadium. He proposed that the city pay the cost of putting the drainage underground and Baker would pay for the landscaping above it.
There had been a discussion at a previous utility committee meeting on the project and Council member Ted Brecheisen Jr. brought up that it was decided there that a study needed to be done. However, the committee was split on how the $2,000 study should be paid for.
"I think we need to know what the cost is before we move on," said Brecheisen. "It was a 2-2 vote at the utility meeting. We were dead even."
The committee couldn't decide on a 50-50, 60-40 or 80-20 split. The city council wasted no time making that decision, voting 4-0 for a 50-50 split. But, from there the discussion wasn't as one-sided.
Brecheisen opposed vacating Fremont Street to allow it to be closed and used for parking and a walk-way area. He cited a traffic count done during a recent two-week period that found 2,157 vehicles traveled Second Street and 1,151 vehicles traveled Fremont Street. Those vehicles would have to use other routes which are residential areas, he said.
"I think we should look at it before we close any streets," said Brecheisen. "To me, it's not good judgment. Fremont Street catches a lot of traffic and I should know because I live in the area and use those streets.
"I think what Baker is planning on doing with the parking lot could be attractive," he said. "Close it off with gates for those days and leave it open the rest of the time."
No one agreed with him.
"If we look at just event days, we miss the boat," said McCollum about Fremont Street.
"If I do my math right, that amounts to five cars an hour," said Council member Tony Brown, who lives directly across from Liston Stadium on First Street. "When you do the math, it really isn't that much traffic.
"I live right there, but I'm all for the place being used all summer long, keep the lights burning," he said. "I see this as a real asset to the community. It's other people coming to town to play games."
"This isn't taking into account practices, which are almost every day," said Mayor Ken Hayes. To gate it wouldn't work because it would be gated more than it would be open and that would cause confusion. That's Fremont Street. I'm not sure about Second Street."
The discussion didn't sit well with Brecheisen.
"Baker has owned the damn land forever," Brecheisen said. "Have they ever put in a parking lot? No. Now they want us to close the street so they can build a parking lot."
"Parking lots will be built, regardless of the council's decision," said McCollum.
Those lots are north and east of the stadium. McCollum had also said if the city agrees to paying for the drainage improvements along High Street, Baker would donate land near the Municipal Swimming Pool for a parking lot in that congested area as well.
The proposal will have to be presented as a petition to the city by Baker. There will be a protest period and public hearing before any decision is reached.