Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 4, 2013

Commission punts on Brown Bridge trust fund question


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The city commission will postpone until the 11th hour a decision on whether to ask voters to withdraw about $2.2 million from the Brown Bridge Trust Fund to pay for park improvements.

Commissioners want to see an updated list of all potential projects that could be funded before they decide to put the question before voters. The commission will wait for the city parks and recreation commission, Brown Bridge Advisory Committee, and the planning commission to come up with a project list before they make a decision, possibly as late as Aug. 19.

"I want to see something worthwhile to spend the money on, something that warrants pulling that money from Brown Bridge," said city Commissioner Jody Bergman.

No vote was taken at Monday night's meeting on the issue or proposed ballot language to put before voters on Nov. 5. But Mayor Michael Estes said the commission made it clear they are in agreement about asking the public to use the trust fund for park improvements.

"A number of our parks need attention," Estes said. "But everyone agreed this is not something we need to rush into."

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. A 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.

Commissioners can't agree if they should go to voters with a specific list of projects or a general process to identify how that money should be spent. Estes said a project list should help resolve that question. Commissioners also will have to decide if they have enough time to win voter support.

Estes said he will push commissioners for a decision by July's end to give supporters more time to campaign for public support.