The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

December 22, 2012

City of Enid parks proposal plans were generated from public surveys conducted in 2008

(Continued)

ENID, Okla. — Some uncertainty

Where the plan remains uncertain is in the possibility voters could approve one funding source, but not the other.

“There is some uncertainty of whether both sides will be funded,” Riley said.

She said if only the bonds pass and the sales tax fails, or vice versa, the city would have to make some choices about the scope and design of the parks plan.

“They do complement each other, and if only one of them passes, then we have some choices to make,” Riley said. “If the bond issue passes but not the sales tax, then we’ve already specified the projects for the bonds. But, if the sales tax is the only one that passes, then we have to take a real close look at what we can accomplish ... and that may change as opposed to being able to do both sides. Of course, if they both pass, it’s easy.”

Riley said plans for sales tax funds may remain unspecified, but use of the funds would be limited to parks and recreation improvements and maintenance.

“It is for quality-of-life issues, and that includes parks and recreation purchases, parks maintenance ... it’s all for that quality-of-life scope.

“Our purpose is to fund parks and recreation. The money is restricted to those areas, you just don’t have to outline them specifically, like you do with the bonds.”

Riley said the city is prepared to re-evaluate the parks plan if voters approve only one funding source, but she remains confident voters will approve both.

“We’re going with the faith that the people want improved quality of life, and they’re going to vote both of them in, and the city will benefit from that as a whole.”

Ward One Commissioner Ron Janzen said he is in favor of the proposed parks plan precisely because it does address the whole city.

Janzen said he had concerns about the previous draft of the parks plan, because it specified the bond money for the total project at the 30th and Randolph park, and left neighborhood parks to be funded by the sales tax. He said that raised the possibility the bond would pass, but not the sales tax, and leave the neighborhood parks without improvements.

Now, with the plan spreading both sales tax and bond funds across the city, Janzen said he is “pretty well-satisfied with the final result.”

Janzen said it is time not only to build and renovate Enid parks, but also to staff and fund a parks department responsible for their upkeep.

“I feel like what we’re presenting now is a pretty well-balanced and funded program that’s going to not only add more parks, but also take care of the existing parks and take care of some repairs that have been needed for some time.”

By his own estimation, Janzen knows more than most people about Enid’s parks. He has served “more on than off” the Enid Park Board since 1973, has served as the board’s chairman more than once, and served a previous term as city commissioner before his current term.

Janzen said Enid’s parks have suffered neglect over the years because the city did not have a funded parks department.

“Parks in Enid have been traditionally a stepchild,” Janzen said. “Parks got money when everything else had been done, and sometimes even when money was budgeted for parks, it didn’t get spent because other things came up.”

Janzen said the parks plan proposal is “an opportunity for the parks to get the funds and the improvements they’ve needed for a long time.”

“I’ve always been a great advocate for quality-of-life issues, and you can spend money on a lot of things, but the people who are paying the taxes, their needs and desires should be a priority,” Janzen said. “People like the parks, they deserve nice parks, and it should be something the people paying the bills will get to enjoy for a long time into the future.”

Ward Two Commissioner Mike Stuber said the time has come for Enid to invest in more than just infrastructure maintenance.

“We spend upwards of $4 million-plus on streets each year, but yet we’re playing spring softball on an old landfill that has glass in the field,” Stuber said, referring to  Government Springs Park South. “I think if we want to stop losing businesses like Continental, we have to focus more on some of the quality-of-life issues here in Enid.”

Stuber said infrastructure improvements do need to be a priority, but investing in quality-of-life issues like the city’s parks will increase the city’s overall revenue, and enable even more infrastructure improvements.

“Nobody in their right mind is going to drive to Enid just because our roads are nice,” Stuber said. “But, they might drive here for a tournament, or an aquatics meet … and while they’re here they’re going to have dinner, maybe do some shopping and spend some money.

“We could take this $50 million and spend it all on roads, and we could have the nicest roads anywhere, but in two years they’re going to need to be repaired again. If we don’t do something to increase our ability to capture tax dollars, when the energy sector busts, when that does happen, we’re going to be worse off.”

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