Sammamish Parks Department explains long-term plans
June 19, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: June 19, 10:14 a.m.
If you build it, you must mow.
The Sammamish Parks Department presented a plan for a series of construction projects over the next few years, but one councilwoman wanted to know where the city would find money to maintain all the new facilities in the plan.
If everything is built as planned – which is far from a certainty – it could cost the city $35.7 million in construction costs over the next five years ($22.6 million of that is related to the community center). Even if the plan is approved, the City Council must then fund each project as part of the city’s budgeting process.
While much of the funding for building new parks comes from impact fees and real-estate taxes, that doesn’t help with maintaining them, noted Councilwoman Nancy Whitten during a June 10 meeting of the City Council and Parks Commission.
“Can we take a global look at a sustainable source for maintenance?” she said.
She applauded the department’s efforts to build parks that would meet the needs of city residents, but said that just looking at the construction costs, without considering the long-term liabilities of maintenance, is short-sighted.
“We’re on an excellent track … but we do need to take a look at this other piece,” she said.
Councilman Ramiro Valderrama agreed with Whitten. He said parks represent the largest slice of the city budget after public safety, and is also the fastest-growing category.
“I think sustainability needs to be looked at,” he said.
City Manager Ben Yazici laid out the traditional methods for government to find money: It can cut services in other areas, raise taxes, try to find partnerships with other entities, or possibly establish private “friends” groups to raise funds.
“You can hold garage sales, cookie sales,” he said jokingly.
He said that he’ll have a better sense of the city’s long- term needs later this year as he prepares the budget for 2015-16.
New plans in the plan
The discussion took place as Parks Director Jessi Bon unveiled the Capital Improvement Plan at the June 10 meeting. As is typical with capital plans, it previews the next few years and lays out a schedule for designing and/or building new parks facilities.
The plan does not commit the city to spending any money – it lays out a wish list of sorts. The council must still approve the expenditures as part of its annual budget.
As is typical, parts of the plan are shifted from year to year as priorities change. This year’s CIP has some changes from previous years, perhaps the most notable one calling for a 2015 feasibility study for a new field house.
The indoor facility would go on land owned by the YMCA near Pine Lake Middle School. As part of the deal for constructing the community center, the city is expected to complete such a study within five years, Bon said.
Bon said the study, which she estimated at $200,000 over two years, would cover feasibility and estimate construction costs, as well as ongoing maintenance and operations costs if it should be built.
“We’ll look at both pieces,” she said.
Since the parks department will have their hands full administering several projects, Bon suggested moving the master plan for 30 Acres Park, which had been slated to start next year, to 2017. That’s a placeholder name for a 30-acre chunk of Soaring Eagle Park which abuts the northern edge of the Trossachs neighborhood.
King County gave the 30 acres to Sammamish as part of a deal finalized in 2012. The plan estimates the design phase of the park will cost $250,000.
The plan completely removes construction of a trail from Beaver Lake Preserve to Beaver Lake Park. The $1.1 million project had been slated to start design work next year.
Bon noted that such a trail, which would go along city streets, is outside of the parks department’s area of expertise, and that it calls for a more comprehensive solution. She said the $1.1 million will be kept in the budget for other trail projects.
The department’s maintenance work is actually helping stave off some major expenses, Bon noted. The city had set aside $1 million for replacing the turf fields at Eastlake High School in 2015, and another $1 million to replace the fields at Skyline High in 2016.
Bon said the city maintains those fields at the highest standards, meaning they can push back the replacement by a year for each field. When the fields had been installed, the city expected to have to replace the turf after seven years. Good maintenance work has lengthened the life span to 10-12 years, and maybe even more.
“We’re getting many more years than was anticipated,” Yazici said.
Yazici also took a moment to praise the investment in the fields. As an avid soccer player, Yazici uses them regularly.
“These fields are busy. Our community is using it,” he said.
Other big-ticket items called for envisioning changes to Sammamish Landing and Big Rock parks. (See related stories).
The council is set to vote on the plan at its June 17 meeting.