Tualatin agrees on $5 monthly parks fee
This summer, Tualatin residents will begin receiving a monthly $5 parks utility fee to help pay for upkeep and repair at the city's much-used parks.
Ross Hoover, Tualatin Parks and Recreation director, told The Times that the fee will show up on homeowners' utility bills in July alongside other city fees.
The program has been predicted to generate $678,000 annually.
"Kind of the short takeaway is the parks system is either at or beyond, approaching 30 years. So, a lot of the things that were installed in our parks, they were built 30 years ago," said Hoover. He compares it to a homeowner's roof that needs to be fixed or replaced.
The Tualatin City Council approved the new fee 6-1 during its April 26 meeting.
Councilor Maria Reyes was the sole member to vote against adding the fee to residents' utility bills.
"I can't move forward with a $5 fee," she said. "I just think of a lot of families I come across and talk to all the time, and a $5 fee seems a lot to me."
Councilor Valerie Pratt said that even at $5, the fee revenues will be a mere drop in the bucket next to the amount of deferred maintenance projects that have piled up over the years.
"Hopefully we're going to get a bond or a levy in the future, but right now, we need to do something," said Pratt. "We have things closed because there's been deferred maintenance for decades, and if we don't do this, we're just going to have more and more deferred maintenance and less parks."
Hoover said other local cities have similar fees, something he said allows the city to continue to make those parks accessible to the public with what is effectively a parks infrastructure replacement and repair fund.
He said city parks have numerous pathways, play areas, court surfaces, sidewalks and other assets that need to be addressed and maintained.
"Some of them are the high-priority items, and they're urgent in need. Others are less urgent," said Hoover. "What this fund will do, over the life of an element, it provides a source to pay for an element's replacement."
In fact, over the last year, the Tualatin Parks Department has made presentations to both the parks advisory board and City Council on which specific parks in the city need the most help, said Hoover.
"We scored 739 individual elements and amenities," he said. "Of that 739, 19% of them are in that category of what we call a score of 5, which means it's a safety hazard, it's not accessible, meaning it doesn't meet basic ADA requirements, or it's just at the end of its life cycle."
One of the most visible examples of a park in need of repairs is the pedestrian bridge in Brown's Ferry Park. Not considered safe for people to be on, it is closed to the public by a chain link fence. In the past, winter rains have completely submerged the bridge.
"So that's where we start," Hoover said. "We start with those '5' scores."
The repairs won't include only the eight traditional urban or neighborhood parks, but also work needed in natural areas and areas along waterways the city manages as well, according to Rich Mueller, parks planning and development manager.
Also, Hoover said the city will use those fees to upgrade old systems as well including some older field lights that take up too much energy on sports fields.
Regarding the possibility of a future parks bond, Hoover said his department has heard discussions about some specific items, including a desire for nice athletic fields or a more robust trail system throughout the city.
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