Parks bond placed on November ballot
In a 4-3 split decision, Birmingham City Commissioners approved placing an $11.25 million bond parks and recreation bond to improve facilities on the November general election ballot at their meeting on Monday, July 20. In addition, they approved engaging communications firm Van Dyke Horn for $30,000, to perform communications services to communicate the bond. City manager Joe Valentine explained every five years or so, the city's parks and recreation master plan is updated to reflect a vision of its facilities, from operations, maintenance and enhancements for the next several years. The parks and recreation board had complete-range planning meeting in January. He said the last parks and recreation bond was authorized in 2001 and issued in two series; one in 2002 in the amount $16,122.688 and another in 2008 in the amount of $4,014,789. Since 2002, updates to the parks and recreation master plan occurred in 2006, 2011 and 2018. “In total, the bond amount based on the parks board priority list would be $11,250,000 which could be issued in two series; the first in the amount of $4,750,000 in 2021, and the second series in the amount of $6,500,000 in 2024 as existing bond debt would be retired in these respective years,” Valentine said. “The city’s existing debt levy is approximately 1.0099 mills and would reduce to .5448 mills in the 2020-21 fiscal year and by 2024-25 the city’s debt levy would reduce to .1156 mills. The addition of the proposed two bond series would change this reduction from .1156 mills in fiscal year 2024-25 to .2871 mills.” At the long-range planning meeting in January 2020, Lauren Wood, public services director, provided a parks and recreation improvement funding update, noting in June 2018, the city commission directed the parks and recreation board to review their master plan's five-year capital improvement plan to identify facility needs and to look at bonding opportunities. At that time, she said the first phase of the parks and recreation priority list includes $5.1 million for a needed refrigeration system and locker room expansion/facility upgrades at the Birmingham Ice Arena; $700,000 for implementation of the concept plan for Adams Park; $300,000 for Booth Park Phase III corner feature; citywide playground improvements, including accessibility and inclusive play, Springdale playground, $300,000; Crestview playground, $250,000; Howarth playground, $150,000; a pickleball court, location to be determined, $150,000; and $300,000 for improvements to the Rouge River Trail, for a total of $7.3 million for the first phase. The second phase, for a total of $4.9 million, includes more inclusive playground improvements, at Lincoln Well and Pumphouse park playgrounds, $350,000; Linden Park, $150,000; Pembroke playground/park shelter, $400,000; and St. James playground, $300,00; a splashpad, $500,000; $1 million for a new inclusive playground area and drainage improvements at Poppleton Park; an inclusive playground, ballfield developments and walking paths at Kenning Park, $1.2 million; $525,000 for new irrigation at the golf courses; and $450,000 for the Rouge River Trail, to include new trail entry plaza/trailheads, signage, and connectivity to connect Willits to Maple. Mayor Pierre Boutros, commissioners Clinton Baller, Brad Host and Therese Longe voted to approve the bond proposal; commissioners Rackeline Hoff, Mark Nickita and Stuart Sherman voted in opposition.