Officials to discuss expansion of parks and rec facilities

By Corene Brisendine

City commissioners plan to discuss options to renovate city buildings and updates to benefit district and special assessment policies during Tuesday night’s work session.

City administrators are recommending that the commission consider several options to update and expand the Department of Parks and Recreation offices, which have been operating out of a temporary uninsulated converted maintenance shop at City Park for more than 30 years. The commission will look at four different proposed expansions and renovations that range in scope, cost, location and size. Two options are to renovate and expand the current building in City Park at a cost of $1.35 million, or raze the building and build an entirely new office space at an estimated cost of $1.5 million.

The other two options involve creating a “one-stop shop” for all city business at City Hall with the customer service desk taking on public interaction for parks and rec services. The first option suggests renovating the seating area in the City Auditorium to add a two-story office space adjacent to the customer service area at an estimated cost of $1.26 million. The second option includes additional renovations to the gymnasium space and adding a new set of locker rooms at a cost of $2.95 million.

The city currently has a balance of about $1.8 million in reserve for this type of project, and will use revenues from the Special Parks and Recreation Fund and sales tax in the Bond and Interest Fund to support any additional costs. The $1.8 million is currently part of the Bond and Interest Fund. Tuesday’s meeting is a work session, so commissioners will be providing feedback to city officials on which design they prefer.

The second item on the agenda is a proposal to update and expand the policies governing benefit districts and special assessments. City officials claim the current policy is outdated because of changes in building practices.

The proposed expansion is to create safe guards for the city budget. The proposal suggests the policy include an upper limit on the total amount of public improvements.  This proposal would allow city finance officials to better predict and prevent budget deficits created by developers not building as soon as predicted, causing the city to cover the cost of the improvements until the special assessment taxes are paid.

Another suggestion requires developers to prove they are up to date on all their property taxes inside or outside the city. This proposal is to prevent developers delinquent on taxes to move forward with developing property within Manhattan, and reduce the risk to the city.

City officials also want to expand the public improvements paid by special assessments to include trails and bridges. The current policy only addresses water, sewer, storm, lights, streets and sidewalks.

No action will be taken during this meeting. The work session is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Commission room in City Hall, 1101 Poyntz Ave., and will be held unless inclement weather causes the meeting to be cancelled. It will also be televised on Cox Cable Channel 3.

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