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Council delays vote on Ravensdale park funding
The Maple Valley City Council put off deciding to commit an additional $1.5 million to Ravensdale Park Monday night, citing the need for more information.
City Finance Director Shawn Hunstock told council there are two options for funding parks: councilmanic bonds, which do not require a vote by residents, or a larger bond issue which would necessitate a vote.
In his budget presentation in September, Hunstock identified potential revenue streams the city could use to pay the debt service on councilmanic bonds which included maximizing property and utility taxes, implementing a business and occupation tax, as well as other taxes and fees.
At the Maple Valley candidate forum Sept. 26, Mayor Bill Allison said he wouldn’t support a business and operations tax and that is something the city doesn’t want to do.
At the City Council meeting Monday, Hunstock said he included all of the potential revenue streams when he was compiling the list, whether or not they are something council members said they would be in favor of because, technically, they are options.
Members of the Ravensdale Park Foundation approached the Maple Valley City Council about helping to fund the park project about a year ago and the city created a parks commission to vet the idea and offer its recommendation.
The commission presented its report to council in March in which it recommended the city give $2 million to the project.
The City Council agreed to fund $500,000 for the park and consider the additional $1.5 million.
The plans for Ravensdale Park, which is located outside the city limits of Maple Valley, are laid out in the Ravensdale Park Master Plan and is overseen by the Ravensdale Park Foundation. The master plan was adopted in 2009 and includes a community meadow, six fields designated for baseball, soccer and all purposes uses. Phase one of the master plan was completed in January 2012 which included renovating a pre-existing field.
Phase two of the project, for which the foundation is currently preparing and plans to break ground in January with estimated completion next fall, is budgeted to cost $6 million and include adding two multi-use fields, additional parking, restrooms, a concessions stand, play structures, an open area, trails, and maintenance facility. The foundation is receiving funding at the county and state level, as well as funds from the city and multiple private donors.
The council chose to delay committing to funding the additional $1.5 million at its meeting Monday to give staff time to find answers to questions about how the city could generate the cash needed for the second phase of the park.
Councilwoman Linda Johnson reiterated her position — which she argued for at a previous council meeting — the city should put the issue to voters.
“These are taxes that we’re putting on the citizens that they have no say in,” Johnson said. “That’s why I think it’s important to go through the bond issue.”
City staff said that the soonest a bond issue could plausibly go to voters would be fall of 2014 and that if it passed funds would be available in early 2015.
Councilman Noel Gerken said he believes the city should focus on Tahoma School District’s construction bond measure, which is on the November ballot, and the council should come back to parks later.
Allison was strongly in favor of the councilmanic bonds and committing the full $1.5 million because $2 million, “is not a big amount of money in the big scheme of things — it’s not.”
Deputy Mayor Victoria Jonas said that she supports the park but doesn’t support raising taxes and thinks the city should consider selling property assets.
City Manager David Johnston refuted that idea and said that it wouldn’t be likely to help with a near-term request, like that of funding Ravensdale Park.
“Selling our assets isn’t going to be done quickly,” Johnston said.
Councilman Sean Kelly said he agreed with Allison in supporting parks and also agreed with Gerken that the immediate top priority is the school bond.
“I’m not wild about councilmanic bonds but I’m also not wild about waiting until 2015,” Kelly said.
Councilwoman Erin Weaver said that she fully supports parks and prefers the idea of running a larger bond issue to also include funding for Summit Park and Ballfields.
“I’m very surprised to hear that $1.5 million isn’t a big deal,” Weaver said. “Tell that to the two people who we laid off last year.”
Weaver said that for her, the issue is about funding and the city’s resources.
“This all comes down to we don’t have $1.5 million to spend,” Weaver said.
Members of the community, who turned out in force for the meeting decked out in team jerseys and apparel, spoke during the pubic comment period of Monday night’s meeting and said that they expected council to vote in support of funding the additional $1.5 million and were disappointed and frustrated by the council’s lack of action.
Bruce Laing, who spoke on behalf of Ravensdale Park Foundation, said the foundation is out for permits to do construction and it can get the park built faster and cheaper than the city could and expressed his frustration.
“There’s a lot of talk, there’s very little action,” Laing said.
Also among those who spoke was Maple Valley Youth Soccer Association coach Scott Serpa.
“For you guys not to have the intestinal fortitude to take a stand is beyond me,” Serpa said. “Figure out how to make it work. It’s why you’re here.”
More information about Ravensdale Park can be found at www.ravensdalepark.org.