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Park board seeks ideas

THURSDAY, NOV. 12, 2009

Cheney mulls options following Prop. 1 failure

The city of Cheney’s Proposition 1, which was on the ballot Nov. 3, missed getting a supermajority by just 59 votes.

The proposition sought approval of a $5 million bond to build the first phase of a 50-acre park, including a community center to replace the Wren Pierson Building. Cheney Parks and Recreation lost the building last January when heavy snow caused the roof to collapse.

Paul Simmons, the director of the department, said he will discuss what to do next at the park board meeting tonight.

“It’s kind of difficult to say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ ” Simmons said, but he is hopeful.

He said the bond received a total of 1,032 yes votes – just under 57 percent. He added that the bond received the majority of votes in all four voting precincts in the city.

“We should be very proud of our efforts, and I want you all to know that we have built a tremendous level of support for whatever the next step ends up being,” he said in an e-mail to the park board.

With that in mind, he is hoping to receive public input at the meeting and will propose three options for next steps.

The first option will be to rebuild the Wren Pierson Building. Simmons said the city will need to look at all factors if this option is chosen, such as a construction timeline and final cost in order to meet the requirements of the city’s insurance company.

The second option would be to form a new municipal park district which would include all residents inside the 99004 ZIP code instead of just the residents inside the city limits.

Simmons said that 55 percent of the parks department program users live outside the city limits and that he received a lot of support from them during the election campaign.

If the board decides on this option, it would need to generate sufficient petition support, and then would be placed on the ballot.

The third option would be to put the proposition back on the ballot in 2010, since the vote was so close. Because the city and tax base are growing, residents might be in for a smaller payment.

“That is just kind of redefining our vision,” Simmons said.

Simmons said that a possible bond election by the school district may have hurt the park bond’s chances. He said the parks department is dependent upon the school district and supportive of it as well, and he knows that new buildings are needed for a growing student population.

“They’ve been planning the school bond for a couple of years now,” Simmons said. Before the loss of the Wren Pierson Building, Simmons was hoping to hold off on a park bond for a while, but the department is in an emergency situation now.

He said he is very hopeful for the future of Cheney parks.

“I feel like we’re doing something right,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish.”

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