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A Deeper Look at Spring Lake Park Management Costs

Dec 5, 2014

Aldermen this fall agreed to a change of course for management of the city-owned Spring Lake Park.

They hope the move saves the city money, but some of the costs proposed for improvements to the park could start adding up.

A mid-Autumn day at Spring Lake Park
Credit Rich Egger

The city previously paid the park district to manage the site.  The amount rose over the past 15 years to $75,000 per year, but the park managers that was not always enough to break even  -- which was its goal. The district said depending on the year, the management cost could range between $75,000 and $115,000.

So the city chose to seek bids and hired the newly created firm, Spring Lake Management, Inc. It’s owned by Ryan and Beth Hansen of Macomb.

The three-year contract will pay the firm $80,000 per year.

The New Site Superintendent

Ryan Hansen at Macomb City Hall, minutes after he resigned as First Ward Alderman
Credit Rich Egger

Ryan Hansen served as First Ward Alderman for five-and-a-half years.  He resigned just three days before submitting the winning bid.

“This is the lowest bid I could put in to do the best job out there. As honestly as I can, this is just what I feel is in the best interests of the city,” Hansen said.

“And so, yeah, I resigned from the council just to put in a proposal.  Anybody else that wanted to put in a proposal was privy to the same knowledge.”

Only one other bid was submitted by a private company and it asked for twice as much as Hansen requested.

Hansen’s proposal indicates first year expenses of $138,930.  That includes staffing, equipment purchases, and business expenses.  He said the difference between what the city is paying and his expenses could be made up with fees charged for camping, boat rentals, and other services.

Hansen said income above $138,930 would be split with the city.

Capital Improvements for the Park

Hansen’s plan also details physical improvements to the park.  Hansen said capital projects were neglected over the years, though he did not blame the park district.

A dock in need of some work at Spring Lake Park
Credit Rich Egger

“The city handed this off to them to maintain and then we kind of forgot about it. And I’m guilty of it too.  In my five-and-a-half years on the council I really didn’t pay much attention to Spring Lake,” Hansen said.

“So, yes, things have kind of gone downhill but it was our property and we should’ve been putting money into it.”

The plan he submitted to the city recommends improvements be made over a three-year period.  Year one improvements include numbering all campsites, replacing 15 docks, and adding picnic tables.

Hansen said he would provide the labor for the work and he expected the city to pay for the materials. His proposal requests $17,887 in the first year and $38,000 in the second year.  The third year cost would be negotiated later.

Hansen has indicated the electrical system needs to be upgraded, though his proposal does not provide an estimated cost.  Park District Executive Director Ray Peterson said he had also recommended electrical upgrades for several years. 

Peterson also said the park district made improvements out of its own funds even though the site is owned by the city.

“In my opinion, the park district is turning over a park that is not just better but is far better than the park (it) received 15 years ago,” said Peterson.

The Old Site Superintendent

Ryan Hansen said he’s never managed a park but he grew up on a farm and knows how to scrimp and save to get by.

Site Superintendent Stan Abbott said, "It's just wonderful being out in God's creation." His time out at Spring Lake Park ends December 31.
Credit Rich Egger

Outgoing Site Superintendent Stan Abbott also had never managed a park before he starting caring for Spring Lake Park 15 years ago.  He said he learned a lot. Now he’s getting ready to turn over the park to someone else.

“It’s kind of a day-by-day thing where your emotions go up and down and you get mad one day and sometimes you deal with it the next day and it’s not so bad,” said Abbott.

“But it’s a tough situation after putting your life’s blood in here and working for the public for the last 15 years.”

The park district has no positions for Abbott or his two co-workers so they will be let go. Abbott doesn’t know what’s next for him but he’s hopeful something will turn up.