Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 10, 2013

No accord yet on parks plan

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — City Commissioners agree they want to tap the Brown Bridge Trust Fund to improve city parks, but don’t yet agree on the type of projects to target.

Commissioners this week agreed to ask voters to cap the trust fund at $12.5 million for five years. Royalty payments from oil and gas leases at the Brown Bridge Quiet Area created the fund of about $13.2 million and city staff estimates the cap would create about $2.2 million for parks over five years.

Some commissioners want the money to focus on big projects. Others want it for slides and swing sets at neighborhood parks.

Former City Commissioner Carol Hale worked on two previous successful ballot initiatives to tap the fund and advised commissioners to figure it out before going to voters.

“You are all over the world on what you are going to spend it on,” Hale told commissioners.

Hale and two other residents also told the board not to include land acquisition as a potential use of the money. Others told the board not to use any funds for downtown parks.

“Before you buy more (land), let’s take care of what we’ve got,” said resident Warren Studley, a former park commissioner. “And it ought to be in the residential areas, not downtown.”

Mayor Michael Estes termed as “soft” the commission’s support for keeping land acquisition as a potential use for the money in the ballot proposal. There are no acquisition projects, but commissioners wanted to keep their options open.

Commissioners also remained divided on the need to provide voters a specific project list before they go to the polls in November. Estes opposes a list but appears to fall in the minority.

“We have to have some specifics,” Commissioner Mike Gillman said. “I would say we should identify three or four initial projects that would be worthwhile.”

Commissioner Jody Bergman said she needs more information before she will support tapping the trust fund.

“I need something to tell me the magnitude of our park problem ... before I can really make a judgement call on where to go with this,” Bergman said.

“The way it’s being proposed right now, it’s not going to fly, no way, no how,” she later added.

The ballot question will be back on the city commission’s May 6 agenda for more public comment and discussion, City Manager Ben Bifoss said. Staff will also begin work on creating a master list of all parks needs.