The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 17, 2013

Trails priority: Votes on a draft budget show where, on what city wants to spend money

ENID, Okla. — The latest version of Enid’s city budget is becoming clearer after officials cast several votes Friday to support parks and trails, while also lowering contributions to Booker T. Washington Community Center and public-access television upgrades.

Enid City Commission is planning to take a final vote on the fiscal year 2014 budget on June 18, but the budget meeting allowed commissioners to define a starting point on what and where to spend.

It only took about two minutes for commissioners to double what the Parks Board had recommended for the Enid Trails System to $2 million. The evolution of the idea started with City Manager Eric Benson proposing just $1 million, and using the city’s rainy day fund to pay for it.

“For seven years, I’ve argued for the lifting of the brick that lays over our rainy day fund,” he said. “We have a $6 million fund in there; I fully believe you can support a million-dollar investment in trails from that.”

Going into Friday’s meeting, city staff had penciled in $600,000 for trails improvement. Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen, however, called for an additional million to bring the budgeted amount to $1.6 million.

Following that line of proposals, Benson recommended pushing the figure even higher.

“If you allow spending authority of up to $2 million, we might be able to extend more, dollar for dollar, than 1.6 (million),” he said. “What about a spending cap of $2 million, and we bring you back options not to exceed that?”

The commission obliged, and voted 5-1 in favor. Ward 5 Commissioner Tammy Wilson was not present for the vote; she had left the commission chamber a few minutes into the meeting.

During discussion on funding the trail system, Janzen commented members of the public might take umbrage to the significant spending increase.

“We’re going to catch flak for this because there’s a lot of people who think we’re not spending it on streets, too,” he said.

Benson, however, countered the city’s roads and streets have been funded on a higher level.

“In the last eight years, we’ve spent $48 million on streets. We’re spending $3.4 million this year on streets,” he said. “And in at least one major episode here in this town, they voted down $36 million in streets. You’re going to get flak for just showing up.”

Janzen made his motion on the insistence staff try to start “acquiring the property to take the trail downtown.”

The move to fund the trail system was not entirely surprising, as the Parks Board asked the commission last month to consider a funding increase. Chairman Matt Davis told the board’s members in April it is apparent, despite the electoral defeat of a $50 million parks proposal, there is public demand for improvement to the city’s parks.

The commission also voted to include another $750,000 in the budget to pay for park playground equipment.

None of the votes Friday were final, but allowed the commission to move forward on its budget work one line at a time. Several meetings already have been scheduled before a final June 18 vote to approve the budget.

The commission will meet to discuss funding again during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.

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