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Parks bond moving closer to ballot

A $78.4 million plan to improve parks appears likely to make it to voters untouched by the City Council.

The proposal, discussed during a briefing Thursday, will be addressed again during the weekly City Council meeting, tonight at 6 p.m. in City Hall.

Park Board members met with the council to explain their rationale for recommending the bond to rebuild the city’s aging outdoor pools, construct an indoor aquatics center at an unknown location and add other improvements near Joe Albi Stadium and at Riverfront Park.

City Council President Joe Shogan said Thursday he would prefer to send the matter to voters as the Park Board prefers.

“They’ve justified $78 million,” Shogan said.

If approved by voters, the bond would cost property-tax payers about $43 a year for each taxable $100,000 of property value.

Earlier in the week, Nancy McLaughlin said she felt the $27 million aquatics center and an $11 million plan to build a promenade through Riverfront Park along the old route of Howard Street should be cut from the plan. After Thursday’s meeting, she wasn’t as sure.

“The need is great in Spokane, but I’d like to make sure that whatever we bring forward passes,” McLaughlin said. She and Councilman Rob Crow said their decision would be heavily dependent on testimony at today’s council meeting.

Park Board member Steve McNutt said the plan is designed for just about every park constituency.

“The more that we can broadly appeal, the better the chance for success,” McNutt said.

McNutt led the effort to include the promenade in the proposal. He likened the idea, which would create a wide, clear link through the park, to a “long Spokane Champs-Élysées.”

Hal McGlathery, who managed Riverfront Park from 1982 to 1996, said there are needs at Spokane’s downtown park that should be addressed before building a promenade. That includes the replacement of the building that houses the Carrousel.

The promenade “in itself isn’t a bad idea, but how can that be the only item put forth when there are other major deferred needs,” McGlathery said. “It just seems like a real omission.”

Spokane’s park director Mike Stone said some improvements to Riverfront Park, such as fixing bridges, are being handled in annual park budgets. He added that building a new Carrousel building was not deemed as pressing as the promenade by the Park Board.

City Councilman Al French, who is running for mayor, said he expects the council to put the measure on the ballot as is.

“My preference would be that it would be a smaller package,” he said.

“I’m really concerned that the taxpayers are being hit with an awful lot.”


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