Letter to the Editor

Parks projects need to move forward

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Last night, Nevada City Council dug in their heels once again on parks improvements by refusing to allow planning for the community center voters said they wanted when they overwhelmingly approved a half-cent parks sales tax in 2005. The Nevada City Council needs to take the shackles off of the parks board and approve amending the 2007 city budget so the parks board can get back to work those projects.

To that end, $40,000 has already been spent. Now, as occurred with the airport terminal project, the city is looking into terminating the contract for services from Adams and Associates, saying the city is spending money on drawings and concepts, running up the cost of the community center. Planning does cost money, but at least you’re getting something for that money -- high quality consulting from a well-respected company. Terminating the contract would mean spending money for nothing. Literally. If that is done, the city will still have to pay someone to conceptualize and design parks facilities, costing more time and more money -- unless of course they plan to construct a building without first determining what the needs are and designing it.

Time is the city’s biggest enemy when it comes to driving up the cost of such projects. We have seen that with the terminal building and with the airport runway project. The longer it takes, the more it costs. If funding is an issue and more projects are on the table than can be constructed with the funds received, then the city should ask the voters who’re paying for it to prioritize projects. Form a citizen’s committee that seeks input -- better yet, charge the parks board with this responsibility and determine the voters’ wishes. Isn’t that one of the reasons the parks board exists? To evaluate parks issues and make recommendations to the city? Several council meetings ago councilman Russ Kemm stated that the city council halted work on the park projects in 2006 because of the city budget crisis.

That is nonsense. The park sales tax is earmarked for specific uses and should not have been affected by the city’s budget woes anymore than the street construction projects that are paid for with a similar sales tax and went on as normal. Of course, the street construction was a pet project of a former city councilman, who on the questionnaire he filled out during the council’s search for a new city manager in 2006, said that he wanted to see the parks department continue to be downsized.

This point also brings up the question of when did the city council formally discuss and vote in public to halt work on the park sales tax projects.

We were aware that the projects had been halted and interim city manager Harlan Moore told the parks board that they were to use 2007 for a planning year for the projects while money accumulated.

Since this was brought into the public view by councilman Kemm, we have carefully looked at all of the city council agendas and minutes that are available on the city’s Web site between April and December 2006, as well as looked at all of the stories that we have published about city council meetings. We can find no mention of any such vote or discussion.

Neither does our reporter who covers the city council recall any such vote or discussion and we are certain that if such a vote occurred it would have played prominently in some story.

When the voters approved this tax they were not giving the city a gift, they were approving a contract with the city government for specific services and it is time that the city council get out of the voters’ way and let these projects move ahead.

-- Nevada Daily Mail