BY KAREN GERHARDINGER |MIRROR REPORTER — The green space wedged between Veterans Memorial Park and a commercial building in downtown Whitehouse is known for now as “the grassy area,” but by next year it will be a place to gather with friends, read a book, sip a cup of coffee or warm by the fire.
The Whitehouse Arbor, as the new pocket park is being named, received positive feedback from council members during their September 14 Committee of the Whole meeting.
“Every one of us has heard from somebody about how beautiful the downtown is. People will want to be there,” said Rich Bingham.
“I like the idea of carolers there and Santa pictures by the fire,” said Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer.
The village purchased the property at 6720 Providence St. in October 2018 at no cost and demolished the home and cleaned up the 3,400-square-foot lot, adding four parking spots for access to Veterans Memorial Park, which opened in September 2019. Since then, the space has been dormant.
“We have been trying to determine its best use,” said Whitehouse planning administrator Tiffany Bach-man, who worked with Public Works Director Steve Pilcher and the Edge Group to come up with a design. “We want to keep it natural and see activity there but not break the bank.”
Proposed is a pergola at the front with lighting, a fan, bar stools and two bar tables with live-edge wood tops, donated by administrator Jordan Daugherty. The center of the mini park will have three bistro tables with umbrellas and chairs. Toward the back is a gas fireplace, outdoor sofa and coffee table.
While the village would need to hire contractors to install the electric and gas lines and pour concrete, village crews can install the pergola, furniture, pavers and landscaping, Bachman said. The total cost is $87,729.
“I really like this design and I don’t mind the cost, but if we include this in the budget, what’s it going to do with what’s on our wish list,” Louann Artiaga said, referring to the refinishing of the shelter house, playground equipment and a wheelchair-accessible ramp to the small quarry, to name a few.
Cost is not a problem, especially with installation being handled mostly by village employees, Bachman said.
“This stuff isn’t going to get any cheaper,” said council president Bob Keogh. With a unanimous vote, council members were likely to approve the expenditure during their September 21 meeting.
During the meeting, council also:
• Discussed ways to assist the Whitehouse Community Library. Daugherty met with library treasurer James Gasser and came up with options to support the library once, annually or in a five-year plan tied to metrics. Daugherty said he envisions a joint venture with the library over five years, aiding with promoting and growing the library. Council approved an initial $5,000 donation to get the entryway ramp repaired and will discuss a partnership in more detail later.
• Discussed the 10-year fire contract with Swanton Township, which expires on January 1, 2026. Bingham pointed out that Swanton Township pays $75,000 a year for coverage even though it has more EMS run volume than Waterville Township, which pays about $150,000 a year. Waterville Township voters passed a levy to support membership in a co-op with Waterville and Whitehouse, but Swanton Township did not want to pursue that option. Fire Chief Joshua Hartbarger said he will dig into figures of actual costs and runs and report back to council next month for further discussion.