Traverse City Record-Eagle

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January 14, 2014

TC Commission to pursue Brown Bridge ballot proposal

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.

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