The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 6, 2013

Parks funding voted down

By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid voters rejected two ballot measures Tuesday night that proposed to raise $50 million for parks upgrades and improvements.

The parks plan, which proposed to raise $20 million through a five-year, half-cent increase in city sales tax, and to raise $30 million over 20 years through extension of a 7 mill ad valorem tax, was rejected by a margin of 77.2 percent to 22.8 percent on both propositions.

The results were:

• Proposition No. 1, the sales tax — 1,396 for the proposition and 4,717 against.

• Proposition No. 2, the bond issue — 1,400 for the proposition, 4,731 against.

Neither proposition won a majority in any one of the 24 voting precincts. Turnout from among city voters for the special election was 26.4 percent.

Enid City Manager Eric Benson said “the people have spoken.”

“This is how democracy works,” Benson said. “This is the will of the people, and we will respect it. This is why democracy is such a wonderful venue — it allows people to make decisions for their government.

“Our goal is to identify opportunities and choices for the people, and then allow them to make them.”

The propositions rejected by city voters Tuesday were specified by city staff and bond propositions as a funding source for the following projects:

• Upgrades to all neighborhood parks in the city.

• Construction of two new neighborhood parks.

• Construction of a downtown park.

• Construction of a community park at 30th and Randolph.

• Construction of 10 additional miles of city trails.

• Creation and initial funding of a city parks and recreation department.

The largest item in the failed parks plan was a new community park at 30th and Randolph, which would have included softball fields, soccer fields, football fields, outdoor basketball courts, playgrounds, a skate park, picnic shelters, restrooms and concession facilities. The cost was $13.4 million.

Benson applauded city commissioners for their work in developing the parks plan and their willingness to “work for the betterment of their community.”

“I was very proud of the work that went into this,” Benson said, “and the people have spoken.”

The Quality of Life Initiative rejected was the result of five years’ worth of public input and staff planning, beginning with public surveys in 2008.

Benson said parks improvements consistently listed as a high priority in all of the public polls, taken through the mail, online and in direct interviews.

“Parks and overall quality-of-life issues were the No. 1 sought after and the most desired item from those polls,” Benson said.

Based on that input, the city contracted with architectural planning firm Howell & Vancuren Inc. to conduct an audit of the city’s parks and develop a master parks plan. The parks plan voted on was created from the master plan.