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BLD can make a big save for Manteca parks

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POSTED July 28, 2009 1:19 a.m.

Big League Dreams holds part of the answer to Manteca’s current budget woes.


And that partial answer could cover the salary and benefits for at least five parks maintenance workers.


It involves the $310,000 payment that Big League Dreams is making to the city each year. A previous council committed the city to repaying the park fees portion of what went into the project back to that fund so it could underwrite other recreational improvements in Manteca.
No other recreational amenity paid for with park fees slapped on growth has ever had to repay the fund. The council did it to illustrate that the BLD’s construction would yield other benefits. The bulk of the money put up for the project – in the neighborhood of $20 million – came from redevelopment agency funds.


The goal was to repay the park fee account first and then divert the money to the general fund for future park projects or other purposes.
This seems to be a no-brainer solution.


First, Manteca can ill-afford to add many more recreational amenities that have annual maintenance costs at the time the general fund is under severe stress and the city is looking at another $2 million to $4 million in cuts thanks to yet another state raid on local funds to pay for the California Legislature’s ineptness.


There are already projects in the pipeline that are going forward that will require added maintenance including the Library Park expansion, new replacement playground equipment at neighborhood parks and landscaping at the Yosemite Avenue and Highway 120 interchange. All those projects do not impact the general fund to construct but they do to maintain them. The landscaping at the interchange has an annual price tag of roughly $55,000 to maintain.


It seems logical the council would simply “suspend” paying back the park fees for a few years and divert the money to the general fund for the specific purposes of park maintenance.


With 33 years to go on the BLD contract, the city could easily go back to diverting money payments to the park fee account after the budget crisis passes. To assure that happens they could make such a switch on a year-to-year basis until the fiscal mess eases.


By restricting the money to park maintenance, the council is assuring that Manteca residents will benefit from BLD’s presence by helping keep up the existing 50 parks and other recreational amenities.


Does it break a trust? No. Does it honor a commitment a previous council made? Yes.


By suspending the park fee repayments and diverting the payments to the general fund for park maintenance BLD will still provide other recreational benefits to city residents.


What good is more money accumulating in the park fee account if the city can’t maintain their current parks?


This budget crisis is only temporary especially if the city continues retooling how it does the people’s business.


That $310,000 can cover the maintenance tab for the interchange, the new playground at Baccelieri Park, the new playground at Shasta Park, plus make sure maintenance continues on other parks.


Such a move – as long as it is temporary and reviewed on a year-to-year basis – doesn’t break the public’s trust.


It would, however, go a long way to making sure Manteca weathers the current budget storm.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com






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