Canby parks getting deep discussions
There was standing room only at the April 18 city council and parks and recreation advisory board work session, proving that everyone there was ready to get things going.
Mayor Brian Hodson led the session by suggesting the meeting wasn't just to work out current parks questions but to look one, five, 10 and even 30 years ahead to planning parks and maintenance for them.
He also asked each to look at their role and vision and what they expect to accomplish.
"Look at it with a 30,000-foot viewpoint," Hodson told the advisory board members. "What are you looking for as the city grows, what level setting will you be at as the city moves forward? The council members want an annual report with recommendations on changes."
City Administrator Rick Robinson suggested the report come to the city in the September or October time frame and include a recap of the previous year and plans for the upcoming year.
Lots of suggestions followed. One included no more pocket parks, which prompted a discussion of whether it's important to have more local, regional or neighborhood places to play, look at flowers or just sit in the sun. Another question dealt with a dog park, what input and advice does the advisory board offer, despite people volunteering, can anyone vouch that they will do so?
"Now that we're moving forward we need clarification -- we shouldn't stop planning," said one council member. "We need a maintenance fee and money to be able to show positive steps. And we need to focus on recommendations for near term projects."
Currently, the fund from the $5 fee is almost $380,000.
The mayor stressed maintenance is the key, "…fix, repair, replace and enhance. We've got $5 a month coming in from each home in Canby and we need to decide how to use that money," he said. "We can't add more [parks] if we can't take care of what we have."
That suggestion brought up the question of the current lack of park maintenance workers and the estimated time needed to catch up on the deferred maintenance.
Robinson noted that the city needs to know the hours needed to catch up on the deferred maintenance so it can hire the workers necessary to meet that outcome.
Currently, he said, the city has one and a half full time equivalent workers, which probably isn't enough.
Both council and park board members would have liked to have Parks Maintenance Lead Jeff Snyder at the meeting to provide his input for the needed number of maintenance workers, especially after Robinson noted that there wasn't enough objective evidence to decide what is necessary.
"We need to come to a consensus of what is needed, otherwise it could cause catastrophic problems if the maintenance isn't done," said Robinson. "There are lots of steps we need to take to maintain our parks that hasn't been done. Things like cleaning sidewalks, painting, restrooms and equipment. We want solutions and answers and we can't get there yet."
It became obvious that the first order of business was maintenance and Council Member Greg Parker said the city should first get up to speed with maintenance before there's any discussion or worry about building a new park.
"We wouldn't be able to do anything until next spring," he said.
Council member Sarah Spoon is concerned about the park money earmarked for maintenance. The $5 per household per month sunsets within a couple of years. If that happens, she thinks the city will be in even worse shape.
The subject was brought up later that evening at the council meeting when Mayor Hodson asked council members for feedback regarding what steps they thought should be taken next. Nearly all the council members asked for time to mull over their thoughts before getting back to Hodson, who suggested they email their comments to him and Robinson by May 3, to be discussed at a later meeting.
"This is the first of many meetings, we can't automatically turn on the switch and lots of ideas [and answers] pop out," Hodson said.
Most members agreed, with Spoon summing up council thoughts. "I'm excited to see what we can do. But we need to have all the information before we go rushing into a decision. We need to wait to make a more informed decision," she said.