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Council gets head start on its funding request

Thu., Nov. 21, 2013, midnight

City to ask state to support Balfour Park or Appleway Trail

The Spokane Valley City Council debated Tuesday which capital project it should seek funding for from the state Legislature in 2015.

The two contenders are the expansion of Balfour Park and the building of the Appleway Trail on an old railroad right of way just south of Sprague Avenue.

The Legislature won’t consider funding requests in 2014’s short session, but City Manager Mike Jackson said the city needs to start asking for money early so legislators are familiar with the project. The council’s finance committee recommended asking for funding to help build Appleway Trail. Balfour Park wasn’t picked because the site plan includes a new library in partnership with the Spokane County Library District. Construction of the new library is contingent on the district passing a construction bond on the April 2014 ballot.

“We’re waiting for the library to get funding,” Jackson said. “It makes it difficult to move forward with conviction.”

Councilman Ben Wick spoke strongly in favor of asking for money for Balfour Park instead. He said he doesn’t want to see a new library get built before the park is done. “If the library passes or doesn’t pass, we’re still going to have a park on that property,” he said.

There was some discussion about asking for money for both projects, but Mayor Tom Towey recommended against it. Past experience has shown that if the city asks for money for multiple projects, it’s less likely that the city will get anything, Towey said.

Councilman Arne Woodard said the council could add Balfour Park to the list if the library bond is approved by voters. “The citizens have put a lot of work into both projects,” he said.

If the library bond doesn’t pass, the city will have to redesign the expansion of Balfour Park, said councilman Dean Grafos. “I think we’re a little premature on the library and the park,” he said.

The council is scheduled to vote later this month on the funding request.

In other business, the council got its first look at the update to the city’s Park and Recreation Master Plan. The update builds on the city’s 2006 parks plan and makes recommendations for future park development, said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone. “There is nothing in this plan that commits the city to anything,” he said.

The plans calls for greater emphasis on park land acquisition and accommodating user groups by creating things like an off-leash dog park and a disc golf course. It also calls for five new neighborhood parks in the north, southeast, west and east areas of the city and a new community park on the south side over the next 20 years. “There are voids in our city right now,” Stone said.

Councilman Chuck Hafner said the plan also calls for smaller projects at current parks, including Terrace View. “They look like minor things we can fix as needed,” he said.

Woodard said he agreed with the new focus on buying park land. “We need more ground,” he said. “Land is not going to get any cheaper.”

Stone acknowledged that the price tag for all the items listed in the plan could be up to $18.9 million. “We’re going to chip away,” he said. “The bottom line is we want to provide the best community we can.”

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