March 2011 Editorial Winner

Regional park carries hefty price tag

Mike McCormick, Shawnee News-Star

When city of Shawnee voters approved making the third penny sales tax permanent more than 12 years ago, little did they envision probably a regional park with a price tag estimated at between $19 to $20 million. With city commissioners last Monday night approving the master plan for the park, it could happen.
Commissioners have a monumental task though ahead of them. First, they have to determine how they want to fund construction of the park, which will necessarily include some type of tax increase. Second, they will have to convince citizens of the need for the scope of a project this size to secure the votes to approve funding.
All this of course is part of the capital improvements plan the city commission adopted earlier this year, which includes 81 different projects totaling an estimated $114 million.
It appears the city most likely will ask citizens to either raise the city sales tax, or possibly increase their ad valorem taxes, or a combination of both. At least that is what we are getting from discussions with some of the commissioners, some of whom seem undecided on which method to use.
Some community leaders are questioning the price tag of the regional park. They also question the scope of the project because of its cost relevant to other priorities the city has indicated toward the top of its list.
Included in the top 11 listed projects, totaling $30,648,310, are three dealing with parking lot improvements for the Expo Center; two for parks, one being the regional park; one for neighborhood revitalization; one on technology; and four having to do with streets.
The largest single cost of any of the 81 projects is the regional park.
Even the initial phase of the regional park carries an estimated price tag of between $12.5 and $14.5 million, according to the information presented by planners during last Monday night's commission meeting.
Several community leaders are asking why Shawnee's regional park carries such a hefty price tag compared to some of the other communities. Chickasha's for instance, which is on 95 acres, cost $9.5 million, It also requires $500,000 annually for operation and maintenance.
That is the same price for operation and maintenance city commissioners were given Monday night, although the city's park contains nearly twice the acreage. We realize there is a lake and there will be trails as well.
Commissioners seem to be firm in their plan to move ahead with this size of park, despite the hefty price tag.
We do question why the city didn't scale it down considerably, so some of the fields could be have been constructed quicker and our young people could begin playing on them. That's another question, too, which keeps coming up, are these fields for our kids or more for bringing people from outside Shawnee or a combination of both?
As commissioners continue their pursuit in the weeks and months ahead they must closely examine what projects are the most important to improving the quality of life in Shawnee that the city can afford and put those on the table first. It might be they see scaling down the regional park is necessary to convince citizens to buy in to their plan.

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Loli wrote:
They do seem to have a rule that commissioners who don't aetntd the public hearings on a matter aren't eligible to vote on it. This makes sense to me. What doesn't make sense is the notion that they can only consider testimony presented at the public hearings or during the written comment period. And part of the MVC's mandate involves preserving the character of the island that amorphous thing that everyone believes in but no one agrees on. How do you know what that is if you don't listen to the people around you?

Sun, August 26, 2012 @ 11:24 PM

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