OSHKOSH – An Oshkosh Common Council meeting Tuesday became a tense public vetting of a plan to offer Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course up for sale to Oshkosh Corp.
It likely will be the first in a series such sessions, with city leaders eyeing a six-week timeline for deciding what to do with Lakeshore. And on Tuesday, supporters and critics alike — evenly represented among the dozen or so speakers — found diverging concerns in the haze.
Some worry that anything but deference to Oshkosh Corp. could cause the company to leave the city, taking a constellation of talent, industry and philanthropy with it. Others are distraught that the city would let the company defile a tract of land that has strengthened family ties and friendships for a century.
Oshkosh resident Jamie Chapin grew up playing at Lakeshore and said the course groomed decades-long friendships with other golfers. While losing the company would be traumatic, losing the golf course would be, too, he said.
"To potentially take 25 percent of the public (park) land in Oshkosh and give it to the company — that would be significant," Chapin said. Lakeshore accounts for nearly a quarter of Oshkosh's 440 acres of park land, according to a 2011 city recreation report.
"Personally speaking, this course means more than just about any public fixture," he added. "Why can’t we choose an undeveloped site?"
Despite the weeks-long discussion, there are still plenty of gaps in public knowledge. It's not clear what criteria led City Manager Mark Rohloff to shuffle Lakeshore to the top of a list of a dozen or so possible sites for the company in Oshkosh.
Oshkosh Corp. has not told city officials where else it is considering for a corporate headquarters, but it's expected that the truck-maker is eyeing sites outside of Oshkosh and outside of Wisconsin.
"When or why or who determined that Lakeshore golf course was the site we wanted?" Councilor Steve Herman asked during Tuesday's meeting. His question drew an exasperated cheer from part of the audience in the packed council chambers.
Rohloff said the decision was his alone.
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