Issaquah officials want Klahanie Park decision to hinge on growth
February 26, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 6 a.m. Feb. 26, 2010
City officials called Thursday for decisions about adding Klahanie Park to the municipal parks system to be made alongside long-term growth agreements.
Members of the Council Services & Safety Committee discussed the park Thursday night. The committee followed a recommendation from the city administration to weigh decisions about the park in conjunction with potential Klahanie annexations in mind.
Although Klahanie and nearby neighborhoods border Issaquah and Sammamish, the area is included only in long-term growth plans for Issaquah. Officials from both cities will discuss the issue and others at a March 9 joint meeting.
City officials also encouraged King County to forge a maintenance agreement with a volunteer group or government agencies to keep the park open.
The full council will discuss the issue at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Members meet in the Council Chambers at City Hall South, 135 E. Sunset Way.
County Parks Director Kevin Brown reiterated — as he has during earlier meetings about the park — the desire to close the park as soon as possible to save money for cash-strapped King County.
“Our timeframe for finding a solution is critical and short,” he said. “We do not have funding in our 2010 budget for this park, and to the extent that it stays open today, it takes away from other parks and levels of service have diminished.”
The county requested offers from sports groups and volunteer organizations after then-County Executive Kurt Triplett announced a plan in August to close Klahanie Park and 38 others. But the park attracted no interest aside from Sammamish and the Klahanie Association, the neighborhood homeowners group. The proposal by Sammamish to take over the park riled Klahanie residents, who then asked Issaquah officials to consider the park.
But Issaquah lacks the money and employees to maintain the park, officials said Thursday.
City Parks & Recreation Director Anne McGill said the municipal park maintenance division remains understaffed due to a vacancy and a layoff. Officials stopped hiring for noncritical vacancies early last year, and then laid off 10 workers in September. Cuts and freezes also eliminated and reduced the amount the department can spend on supplies.
McGill noted how the parks system expanded in the meantime, as the city opened Harvey Manning Park at Talus, Squak Valley Park South and artificial turf fields at Central Park in the Issaquah Highlands.
Besides the employee and supply expenses, parks staffers estimate the cost to maintain Klahanie Park to city standards at $125,000 per year. King County spent $92,983 last year to maintain the park.
Moreover, McGill said a decision by Issaquah officials to take on Klahanie Park would require the City Council to authorize her to fill the vacant positions and restore spending for parks maintenance to pre-cuts levels.
“After careful and deliberate review of the current situation, the administration recommends that any decision regarding Klahanie Park should made in conjunction with a decision on annexation,” she said.
Councilman Tola Marts, a former Klahanie resident and a Services & Safety Committee member, said the strain on city finances prevented the city from taking on the park outright.
“We obviously are in a tough economic climate, and I don’t think we can take on any expenses, so the only way that Issaquah could look to do this is if there was some sort of mechanism” to join with other organizations to help maintain the park, he said.
McGill recalled how the Issaquah Soccer Club assumed soccer fields from Lake Sammamish State Park several years ago in order to keep the fields open. The parks director suggested a similar agreement as a way for King County to keep the park open.
“There are all kinds of different, creative ways you can enter into with different volunteer organizations in exchange for their use of the park — of certain parts of the park,” she said.