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City council hears report on $30,000 La Crosse parks rec. audit

Brad Williams

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La Crosse isn’t necessarily doing anything wrong in the way it finances the city’s parks and rec. department but improvements could be made.

That was one message from a $30,000 audit on the department that was finally presented to the city council Thursday.

At the special council meeting, accountant Mary Jo Werner of the Wipfli accounting firm said no misuse of funding was found, but there wasn’t much oversight for how some park money is spent.

“One of the things that we’ve noted is,” Werner said, “it’s much easier to collect money for something that isn’t there yet, than to pay for yesterday’s lunch.”

Wipfli also suggested there’s too much shifting of money from one park project to another without much open accounting.

While council members generally thanked the company for the report, one said the city should be sure it has enough money to finish a park project before it starts.

“There should be something that happens so we’re not starting a project, depending on fundraising and then the fundraising doesn’t happen and we get stuck with it,” Doug Happel said.

Happel also asked Mayor Tim Kabat not to “short-circuit” certain projects so the council has time to do some study.

Interim city parks and rec. director Jay Odegaard said his department does need to evolve.

“Parks and recs. are no longer just your youth baseball or mowing of parks,” he said.

The audit found that La Crosse city codes governing the use of dozens of parks have not been updated in nearly 40 years.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.