Happy New Year! I’m writing on this holiday to tell you that the CdA City Council is meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, at 6:00 pm on the lower level of the new library, to talk about McEuen Park and Person Field.
I know it might seem sneaky for them to be dealing with these and several other major issues while most people are distracted by the just-completed holidays, but it’s par for the course with this administration. They really don’t want you to show up—unless you agree with them.
So here’s the quick run down on McEuen: Many of you saw the big article in the Press last week about the cost increases proposed for McEuen. What a shock—they want more money! About $5 million more. City Administrator Wendy Gabriel is proposing to take money from future city budgets and the Rainy Day fund. They want more from LCDC and they also want $1.2 million from the property owners along Front Street. On an original budget of about $14.2 million, it’s at least a 35% increase.
Parks Director Doug Eastwood was dancing as fast as he could at last week’s Team McEuen meeting, claiming he suddenly realized that too many of the fun parts of the park plan were cut out, just to meet the so-called budget, and he wants to put them back in. He’s got “vision”.
But I’ve heard that the basic plan is more than $3 million over budget right now, without all the extras added back. I think Doug is flapping about his “vision” to divert attention from their spending overages, and he probably hopes to hide any management problems with the additional funding.
Councilman Mike Kennedy referred to the McEuen project a few months ago, when he said, “We’re not going over budget, that’s the bottom line”. He’s oddly silent now. The Mayor promised there would be no tax increases because of McEuen—but when they take from future budgets and impose mandatory fees on adjoining property owners, those are tax increases. And don’t forget that LCDC money is taxpayer money. But the most outrageous quote of the whole mess came from Councilman Woody McEvers, who said, “$5 million bucks to make it bitchin’? Let’s bite the bullet and go big.”
Should be interesting tomorrow night, to see how they handle this hot potato. I’m hoping for at least one more incredibly inappropriate 70’s quote from our hippy dippy councilman!
Now on to the related, serious topic of poor little Person Field, the forgotten stepchild of city parks. This plain, flat, grassy park is devoid of any fancy features like Doug Eastwood envisions for McEuen. The Person Field neighbors are not asking for splash pads, tennis and basketball courts or bocce ball and pickle ball courts. They’re not looking for amphitheaters or fountains or multi-level parking buildings with underground tunnels to glitzy high rise condos. (Yes, I’m told that the underground hub for such possible tunnels is included in the Front Street plans—you don’t want those condo people to have to cross the street in the rain and snow, do you?—and does that mean the condos might be leasing parking spaces from the new McEuen parking building? I’m sure the city will deny any of it, but just why do you think they pushed so hard to spend over $7 million to gain only a few more parking spaces than we had before?)
No, all the Person Field neighbors are hoping for is to hold onto the little park they’ve always had. The City only owns half. The School District owns the other half, but now they need money and are going to sell. If the City doesn’t buy it (price tag about $600,000), the district will put it out to bid for developers.
No political bigwigs live near Person Field. There will be no increased tax revenues to the city from this purchase. It’s just an older, established neighborhood that has seen better days, trying to keep their only green space.
Tomorrow’s City Council Agenda shows there will be a “Person Field Update” presented by the City Finance Director Troy Tymeson and City Attorney Mike Gridley. (don’t know what they will say)
Immediately after that is a “McEuen Park Funding and Design Determination”, presented by City Administrator Wendy Gabriel. (if you want a“bitchin” park, Woody)
Also on the agenda are decision points about the $33.5 million dollar Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade and increases in our Water fees. (which will cost us all a lot)
Welcome to 2013 in the City of Excellence. Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!