Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

June 2, 2013

Traverse City officials at odds over tapping trust fund

TRAVERSE CITY — A city ballot proposal to withdraw about $2.2 million from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund to pay for park improvements faces an uncertain reception from city commissioners.

Several commissioners said the ballot question is too vague and doomed to failure if it's put before voters on Nov. 5, at least in the current form favored by Mayor Michael Estes. The commission may decide to tweak the language or table it for another year when it meets Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

"The general sense I'm getting from people is unless there is something specific they can support, they will not support the ballot proposal," said city Commissioner Jeanine Easterday. "I hate to put something on the ballot that you know ahead of time is going to be defeated."

Royalty payments from oil and gas leases at the Brown Bridge Quiet Area created the fund of about $13.2 million, and interest from the ever-growing fund pays for general city operations. The ballot proposal would ask voters to cap the trust fund at $12.5 million and divert royalty payments for five years toward city parks. City staff estimates the cap would create about $2.2 million for parks.

Proposed ballot language that is now before commissioners would use the money for: "city park capital improvements including neighborhood parks, parkland and park equipment acquisition, forestry, pathways, trails and boardwalks."

"If it's going to be that vague I don't think it will fly," said city Commissioner Jody Bergman. "We already know vague things don't in this community."

To determine how the money will be spent City Manager Ben Bifoss recommends the city's Parks and Recreation Commission revisit it's five-year capital improvements plan and meld it with the Brown Bridge Advisory Committee's request for funds to address drawdown of the Brown Bridge pond. The planning commission would review the project list and the city would follow with presentations to neighborhood associations and a public hearing before the city commission.

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