Banks residents to pay new $5 fee for parks
Banks residents will have a new $5 fee added to their utility bills starting July 1.
The fee will pay for maintenance and costs to operate the city's two parks, Greenville City Park and Log Cabin Park.
The Banks City Council voted unanimously to create the fee Tuesday evening, Feb. 11. City officials, who have been discussing the fee for months, say it will create a needed permanent source of revenue to maintain parks.
All residential units within Banks and its urban growth boundary will have a $5 monthly charge, under the ordinance adopted Tuesday. Non-residential units, such as restaurants, stores and other businesses, will be charged $10.
For about 20 years, the Arbor Village Homeowners Association paid for maintenance at Greenville Park, which is located within the Arbor Village neighborhood.
The association agreed to pay for maintenance at the park when it was constructed as part of a housing development because the city didn't have the funds to pay for it at the time, said Mayor Pete Edison.
"The city made a deal with (the association) a few years ago to start decreasing the amount of obligation they had on an annual basis," Edison said. "The association has been very good over the years, but I have to say they've felt a little singled-out they're the only ones in the community paying for the maintenance of the park."
Councilors authorized a new agreement with the Arbor Village Homeowners Association on Tuesday that will allow the organization to stop paying out of its own coffers for park maintenance after one last payment of $16,000 this year.
The association paid $20,000 and $18,000 in 2018 and 2019, respectively, according to city records.
"Bottom line is there's 340 homes out there that have been paying for that park for the last 20 years," said Gene Stout, the HOA's president.
Stout said costs to maintain Greenville Park have gone up over time, and the HOA board felt it was unsustainable for the association to continue paying for maintenance. The amount the association can charge for membership dues has hit its cap, Stout said.
By taking full responsibility for park maintenance, the city also eliminates administrative issues for Banks and the HOA, said Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker.
Part of the city's original agreement with the association stated that the city must maintain any new amenities at Greenville Park, Becker said.
Playground equipment, benches and trees have been added to the park since it was constructed, she said.
"Administration is much much simpler now," Stout said. "There were trees and property in the park; part of it belonged to the city, part of it belonged to the HOA. It was a mess."
Even with Banks utility customers now paying into the system, the cost of operating the city's parks might exceed the amount the city will receive from the parks fee, Edison said. He expects the city to continue transferring some money from its general fund for parks maintenance, as it has in the past.
In its 2019-20 budget, the Banks city government allocated $116,000 to its park fund, including $39,700 for materials and services. The city expects to receive about $44,000 from the parks fee.
Edison said the fee will allow Banks to have a consistent source of revenue for recurring costs while city officials seek grants for capital projects they hope will expand the parks, he said.
"We have plans to build a basketball court," Edison said.
One park that Banks utility bills won't be paying to maintain is Sunset Park, which is privately owned by the Sunset Park Association. Sunset Park hosts the annual Banks BBQ and Truck & Tractor Pull every August.
Edison acknowledged that residents might be unhappy that the city is adding a fee, but he said it's needed to fairly distribute the costs for amenities that are available to all residents.
"A city is judged by the quality of their parks," Edison said. "We have some good ones, and we need to keep them going."
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