August 23, 2007 in Voices

Skate park closer to reality

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Plans for a skateboard park in Liberty Lake are rolling along, with funding for the park to be considered by the City Council this fall.

“We met with the Liberty Lake Planning Commission a couple weeks ago, and they decided they’d like to see it at Pavillion Park,” said Pat Dockery, a volunteer spearheading the skate park effort. “We started doing a little fundraising. We’ve raised about $1,000 so far. This is going to take private money and corporate sponsors, and I’d like to see the city come onboard.”

Dockery’s skate park group, Liberty Lake 5-0, is planning for a park with a value of about $200,000, but hopefully offset by material and labor donations. The group, which gets its name from a skateboard move, is also working with the city grant writer to find any park funding from outside the area. There is a state program that might provide funding for a skate park provided there was a dollar-for-dollar match by the Liberty Lake government.

Tuesday night, the City Council discussed a future skate park as a potential piece of a larger sports complex to be developed north of Interstate 90. Councilman Neal Olander said Wednesday that there has been talk of the city partnering with The Valley Hub, an indoor sport court facility a coalition of churches is attempting to purchase.

The city officials have also discussed using tax increment funding or a local infrastructure financing tool to develop a park north of the interstate. The funding tools are known as TIF and LIFT respectively. TIFs set aside from a specific area 75 percent of local property taxes, excluding taxes for schools, bond debt, excess levies and taxes that are limited to a single purpose, for a limited time so they can be spent on improvements in that designated area. LIFT funding allows Washington state to pay up to $1 million a year for 25 years as a match to $1 million a year raised by Liberty Lake.

The majority of land in the taxed district is owned by Centennial Properties, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which owns The Spokesman-Review. The land is being developed by Greenstone Corp. The amount of money raised through TIF is expected to be about $89,000 this year, but would increase over the years as homes were added to the development.

TIF and LIFT money might not be available for a skate park for a couple of years, Olander said. It’s possible that a smaller skate park could be built south of the Interstate in the meantime.

City Finance Director, Arlene Fisher, said a small, community skate park for local children is most likely what the city would consider because insurance rates and costs are higher at bigger, more challenging parks with a more regional character.

The first indicator of whether city money might go to the project will come in the next few months as the City Council decides what projects will be considered for capital project funds in the 2008 budget. The projects are selected in the fall, and the money is appropriated in January.

Although the City Council has received presentations advocating for a skate park, it hasn’t officially taken up the matter, Fisher said. That first official look at the park is likely to come after the planning commission’s recommendation is forwarded.

Although vocal support for the park has been strong, Dockery said the proposal does have opponents. Some neighbors on the edges of the 14-acre Pavillion Park have said they’re concerned about noise, vandalism and even gangs if the skate park is located at the park.

Dockery would like to see the skate park located near Pavillion Park’s northeast corner, kitty-corner to a public school playground where noise is the norm. Liberty Lake 5-0 also has proposed setting up a video camera at the site and linking it to the Liberty Lake government Web page so parents can check on their children via the Internet.


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