Park board session yields plan of action for controversial public pier

For all the sound and fury leading up to the May 30 special park board work session, the five board members present(minus member Ed Behnke) left the meeting with an action plan conceived amidst little of the heated debate or lengthy verbal wranglings which have marked some of the more contentious board meetings of the past year.

Recent discussion at the park board and even on Culver's town council had focused on why no contract was signed between the town and the installer of a $44,000 public, handicapped accessible pier in the park, though the work session sought instead to determine just what sort of pier board members wanted, and how to go about getting it.

Early in the May 30 work session, town attorney Jim Clevenger dispelled the notion that pursuit of legal action would likely force a reinstallation -- without more money being spent -- of a pier left partly under water shortly after its April installation. After corrections were made to remedy that situation, several board members said the resultant pier -- a hybrid of stationary and floating style -- still felt far too unsteady to be safe, and certainly for wheelchair bound patrons.

Clevenger said pursuing legal action against the manufacturer or installer would have more likelihood of success if the pier as installed wasn't ADA compliant or in other ways failed to meet specifically stated standards, which was not the case.

Board member Patty Stallings explained discussion with the installer prior to installation suggested to her the pier would be significantly more stable than the "rolling, bobbing, jumping" state she said it's in now. Clevenger, however, pointed to the subjectivity of defining stability for a pier, especially when weather and nearby motorboat conditions factor in.

Also discussed was weather further steps should be taken to protect the park from liability than the yellow "caution" tape at the pier's entryway, should someone attempt to use it, though board president Tammy Shaffer argued that, in warm weather, people would likely find a way onto the pier regardless.

Board member Rhonda Reinhold objected to the suggestion the manufacturer and installer delivered the pier requested by the board, noting she had attended meetings in which specifications were laid out, prior to her tenure as a board member.

"You guys said what you needed," she said. "He should have known it wouldn't do what we wanted. One of the goals in every meeting was that (the pier be) very stable for people with wheelchairs -- for veterans or children."

Weighing in on various specifics concerning pier construction were Ed and Becky Furry, Culver residents and sailing professionals with their international Sail22 company.

Both emphasized no pier -- least of all a floating one -- is stable enough for safe wheelchair use during bad weather.

"No matter what, “said Ed, "you have to take way more precautions when you take a handicapped person out (on a pier). When the weather is rough, it will be rough. But straddle the grooves (in the pier) and you won't have a problem."

They also noted no one is likely to fish off the pier when the wind is blowing significantly.

Asked about the safety of the current pier, the Furrys said it appears to be considerably improved after last month's corrections, though they emphasized they hadn't examined it closely.

Some discussion ensued as to the genesis of the board's choosing a floating pier design, with Shaffer explaining the original intent had been to keep the pier in the water year-round, though later research showed this was impossible. Ed Furry asked if local installers were consulted along the way about the design.

Stallings said Culver-based installer Tim Yuhas gave his opinion that a floating pier wouldn't work on Lake Maxinkuckee, though a stationary one would.

"No one local would even bid on (installation of) a floating pier," she added.

"So we had professional advice from here on not going with a floating pier," said Furry, "but we still went floating?"

Audience member John Helphrey suggested the board negotiate with the manufacturer and installer towards a fully stationary pier, based on the fact that 20 percent of their payment has not yet been made by the town.

Board and audience members, after it was noted the cost of installation and repair would likely go up "exponentially" in water depths over six feet, discussed the best means of determining exact depth at the approximately 100 foot distance at the end of the pier.

Ed Furry also made several suggestions for specific parts and actions which would help stabilize the pier. He also suggested asking the installer to submit a new pier design, with the park board running the design past local installers for their opinions before it's agreed to, a call Clevenger will make to both manufacturer and installer, the board determined. It was also agreed to seek design review from Yuhas or, failing that, local pier installer Gary Shaffer.