TRAVERSE CITY — A hodgepodge of funding requests for park improvements sent city commissioners back to the drawing board to draft a new proposal asking voters to tap the Brown Bridge Trust Fund.
Commissioners were in agreement they want to proceed with a ballot proposal in November, but it won’t be the same one they tabled in 2013. Commissioners decided during a Monday study session to form a three-member committee to review and score proposed project lists. The committee will also revisit how much money they want to divert from the trust fund and review other funding options.
“There have been a number of people who have put forth suggestions about what we should or shouldn’t do,” said Commissioner Jeanine Easterday. “But there is no consolidated proposal.”
The Brown Bridge Advisory Committee has a wish list of $947,000 worth of projects, and three neighborhood associations have also submitted project lists. The Parks and Recreation Commission has a capital improvement list of its own, and the city planning commission has some park projects on its capital improvements list.
None of the projects currently have any funding.
“We need to set up an ad hoc committee to incorporate all of these different groups and put some structure behind (the proposal),” Easterday said.
Royalty payments from oil and gas leases at the Brown Bridge Quiet Area go to the trust fund under the City Charter. The fund generates about $250,000 annually in interest to fund general city operations.
The abandoned 2013 ballot proposal would have asked voters to cap the $13 million trust fund at $12.5 million and divert $500,000 plus five years of royalty payments toward city parks. City staff estimated the cap would create up to $2 million for parks over five years, depending on the price of oil and gas.
The committee will meet with the different interest groups to review their proposals, but its goals “are wide open,” said Mayor Michael Estes.
Commissioner Tim Werner said the committee needs to set up a clear, fair and unbiased process to rank projects as opposed to satisfying the most vocal block of people or neighborhoods that turn out the most people to the committee meetings.
Commissioner Gary Howe said the committee needs to come up with more than just a project list: It needs an “overarching goal” of what it hopes to accomplish. He said it needs to seek a return on its investment in parks, whether the return be financial, social, or environmental.
The commission also appeared to reach a compromise on how detailed a project list it should put forward to voters. Werner recommended the committee determine a certain percentage to set aside for specific projects with the balance remaining flexible to address changing circumstances.
The commission will name members to the committee at its next regular meeting on Jan. 21.