Park bond awaits public decision
October 15, 2013
By Peter Clark
A $10 million bond to fund parks and recreation improvements is before city voters in the November election.
The proposed bond follows an intensive citizen process, which brought together a public commission to lead a public hearing and then offer recommendations to the Parks Board, which in turn led to City Council approval in July.
As it comes to voters when the ballots are mailed Oct. 16, the proposition clearly outlines how the money will be used.
“If approved, this proposition would authorize the city to improve its parks and recreation system, such as renovating Julius Boehm Pool; improving Central Park, Tibbetts Valley Park, Meerwood Park and Gibson Park; and preserving open space to protect creeks, natural areas and wildlife habitat,” it reads. “It would authorize issuance of no more than $10,000,000 of general obligation bonds maturing within 20 years to be repaid by the annual levy of excess property taxes.”
The Park Bond Commission looked at a number of different uses for the bond and ultimately decided that half should be spent on large improvements to the public pool.
“The priorities from the phone survey that was conducted last summer was very high on protecting wildlife habitat, preserving open space and acquiring land near lakes and streams,” Park Board Chairwoman Danielle Githam said. “And that was still a pretty high priority, but not so much in our public meeting. The primary things that came out there were the needs to repair the Julius Boehm Pool and to improve sports fields.”
The bond issues voters have approved to finance city services and improvement currently cost taxpayers 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Should voters approve the park bond recommendation, it would raise the rate by about 10 cents, to 18 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, city Finance Director Diane Marcotte said. The rate would rise from $32 per year to $72 per year on a $400,000 home for the 20-year life span of the bond.
The measure received 6-1 council support. Glowing words greeted the intense public process, which led to its inclusion on the November ballot.
“You can see we’ve gone through quite a process getting to tonight’s hopeful vote,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said in July. “The idea to delay this any longer is not something I would like to see happen.”
Councilman Paul Winterstein was enthused by the convergence of opinions that grew out of public polling.
“It’s amazing the meeting of the minds who all want the same things,” he said.
The one dissenting voice on the council came from Councilman Joshua Schaer, who said he believed the measure did not go far enough to improve the community’s recreational offerings. He said the city should strive to invest in larger projects.