The cost behind the Houska Park upgrades

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — The City of La Crosse is using Houska Park as a temporary campground. The campground will have cameras, lighting, and private security.

The city’s homeless service coordinator says this May, his office will ask the City Council to pay for the upgrades and security with American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The estimated cost will be $200,000. Most of the money will go the facility updates, while $20,000 will be used to hire a private security firm.

The Parks and Rec director wants an additional $60,000 in ARPA funds to hire staff who are certified in working with unsheltered people, so the total could be as high as $260,000.

Homeless Service Coordinator Brian Sampson says the city is trying to limit its use of ARPA funds for the park.

“You know, we kind of have to prioritize what our top safety need is and what is absolutely needed because we’re still planning for what the long term solution is going to be,” Sampson said.

The security firm will start at the end of April and work through October. Two people patrol the park everyday, but they will be unarmed and will have to contact the La Crosse Police Department in case of an incident.

The city says it’s having difficulty hiring staff to work the park and may use some of the money set aside for park staff to pay for additional private security.

Sampson says the city is not looking into purchasing a building after plans with the Maple Grove Motel fell through. Instead, the city is working with community partners to find a different long term solution. Sampson says the the city can’t disclose those solutions at the moment.