City to begin parks consultant search

By Bryan Richardson

City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to begin the hiring process for a consultant to develop a guiding plan for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Parks Director Eddie Eastes said this plan wouldn’t be a full comprehensive plan for the department.

He said the current plans in use by Parks and Rec are from 1992 and 1999.

The city will ask for a financial and phasing strategy for prioritized capital improvement projects from 2015 to 2020.

“I think this is step one to get us further down the road,” Eastes said. “I think another planning document at some time in the future will be very important to us also.”

The commission would then vote Aug. 5 on a consultant recommendation with a drafted plan ready for a commission adoption vote Dec. 16.

City officials anticipated the study will require $50,000 to $75,000 to complete.

Eastes said hiring a consultant rather than handling it within the department will allow for a completed study before the commission sets its 2015 goals.

“We really developed a pretty aggressive timeframe for this to occur,” Eastes said.

One of the commission’s 2014 goals is to evaluate the “Fieldhouse Project” report, which comes from a resident group hiring its own consultant, Sport Facility Advisory, while pushing for upgrades to the city’s sports facilities.

In the group’s proposed $54 million project, Anneberg Park would have baseball/softball fields, CiCo Park would have an indoor facility, City Park would have for swimming and tennis, and a soccer complex would be placed east of town along the U.S. 24 corridor.

Commissioner Usha Reddi said the city should develop something that gets a more complete picture of Manhattan than the Fieldhouse Project.

“When we think about Manhattan, we need to take into consideration our community members and our taxpayers who are not competitively competing in sports,” she said.

Mayor Wynn Butler added, “It doesn’t discount traveling sports teams, but it also doesn’t make that a priority either.”

While it’s not a full plan, part of the consultant’s duties would involve identifying projects for a bond issue that could happen after 2018.

That’s the year when the quarter-cent sales tax funding improvements to pools and Sunset Zoo expires.

“That will be a critical component we want to steer that consultant toward,” Eastes said.

Commissioner Karen McCulloh said a consultant should know what young adults want in a park as the city attracts them in the future.

She said they might want different types of recreation than older people want.

“By the time we incorporate all of this, it’s going to be 2020,” she said. “We may be building a dinosaur that nobody really wants.”

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