When the city of Wauwatosa voted not to spend $7,500 for improvements to a Milwaukee County Park, the decision left Jim Hoefgen disappointed.
Hoefgen is the president of Tosa Baseball League, a coed baseball and softball organization for kids age 7 to 14. If approved, the money would have funded renovations like new fencing, dugouts, protective fencing and resurfacing to two baseball diamonds at Center Street Park.
"It's nothing extravagant," Hoefgen said of the upgrade work. "It's just making the fields playable because they haven't had any care in a long time."
The four-acre Milwaukee County Park falls within the city limits of Milwaukee, although three sides of the park border Wauwatosa.
In total, the renovation work would have cost about $60,000; Milwaukee County offered to pay $30,000, the city of Milwaukee offered $7,500 and, if approved, the city of Wauwatosa would have paid $7,500. The Tosa Baseball League would contribute $15,000 — money the league has saved over time for initiatives like fixing up baseball fields, Hoefgen said.
"As our league continues to grow, we continue to struggle with the number of softball and fast pitch fields," Hoefgen said, adding that well over 500 kids from Wauwatosa participate in the league every year. About 20 games are held throughout town every weeknight during the warmer months. The league already uses community baseball fields around town, including those at Longfellow Middle School and Brietlow Field, and has run out of spots to play.
The renovated baseball fields would be used by girls ages 7 to 14 for a fast-pitch softball league — an offshoot of the Tosa Baseball League that grows by about 20 percent every year.
The Wauwatosa common council voted not to fund the league's request Jan. 19 in a 9 to 7 vote. If approved, the money would have been taken money from the city's contingency fund, or extra money stored away for projects not included in the budget.
While the request passed by a simple majority, a two-thirds majority vote is required to use money from the city's contingency fund.
Alderman Jason Kofroth voted in opposition of the request, citing it as "not a wise use of dollars."
"It's a park that's in the city limits of Milwaukee," Kofroth said. "The city of Wauwatosa residents are already paying Milwaukee County taxes that go to parks."
Alderman Jeff Roznowski said during the Jan. 19 common council meeting he would also vote against the request due to the Tosa Baseball League's lack of private fundraising, beyond the group's savings.
"I realize $7,500 is not a lot of money, but I think it's only fair to ask what else could we use that money for?" He added he was concerned about pulling money out of the contingency fund so early in the year.
Alderman Michael Walsh was a staunch supporter of providing the funds, noting his daughters played in the league and, for 13 years, he resided a block away from Center Street Park, an area in Wauwatosa that he previously represented as an alderman before moving across town.
Walsh said the baseball fields have fallen into disrepair and are no longer in "good working use" for any baseball activities. Further, Walsh said when he lived in the area, residents near Center Street Park often called him concerned about people loitering and about other "after-hour activities."
"I would like to see girls playing softball instead of people selling coke," Walsh said during the common council meeting about the park.
Walsh said the moral argument behind the issue is the park's "primary users are Wauwatosa residents."
Thanks to The Friends of Center Street Park, a community organization with a mission to improve the park, a number of improvements have been made, including an annual spring cleanup, an ice rink and fall festivities, among other things.
While the organization has created a lot of momentum, the baseball fields on site still need a lot of work, Walsh said.
Hoefgen said the Tosa Baseball League will go back to the drawing board, but by being $7,500 short of its goal, the league is likely to only renovate one field and could start holding games on weekends — an option Hoefgen said he's tried to stay away from in order not to cut into family time.
"Our ambition is to provide a better experience for the kids," he said.