Friday, March 09, 2007

No Restrooms in our Parks

Last month, the City received the following inquiry from a resident:
I was interested in reserving a park for a family reunion, and was surprised at the major lack of restroom facilities. Are there any plans to upgrade any of the parks?
Here follows my response. You may read it as a commentary on one of the two central challenges facing our City budget.

You asked whether there were plans for restrooms to be added to more of our parks. At this time, there are not.

Optimally, we would like to see restrooms at our three community parks (Rotary, Art Dye, and the Developmental Center lands) and the seven parks that are used for sporting events, making ten restrooms all together. The City's seventeen other parks are very small -- they are designated as neighborhood parks -- so, rightly or wrongly, they are not high on the priority list for restrooms.

As you know, only three of our parks have restrooms at present. Unfortunately, federal regulations fix the price tag for restroom facilities at more than $120,000 each. That's more than I paid for my house, and it adds up to more money than the City has to work with right now.

The problem is sadly symptomatic of the deteriorating infrastructure you see all over our City, whether it's parks that were never fully developed, or roads and sidewalks that need major repairs.

The current administration is hard at work trying to make up for years of neglect. This was a major reason for the unpopular tax increase that the City Council passed last summer. We are often asked why we are not using revenue from new commercial development, such as the Meadows, to address these needs. The answer is that, because of the bonds the City assumed to pay for infrastructure in these developments, it will be three to five more years before the City will receive any substantial revenue from this direction.

In the meantime, we are working as hard as we can to institute capital facilities plans that will help us to address the problem, and I will do all I can to be sure that the needs of our park system are fairly represented in these plans.

If deteriorating infrastructure is the first challenge to our budget, you ask, what is the second?

Answer: Personnel. Our City is chronically understaffed, and many of our staff are woefully underpaid.

Budget hearings begin on March 23. Balancing these two areas of need against our commitment not to raise taxes this year will be a job. I'm rolling up my sleeves.


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