hydrangea blossoming

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Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Park Commissioners Speak

Last night, Park and Recreation District Commissioners Mark Robbins and Linda Hughes came to answer questions at a public meeting sponsored by the Tax Payers Association about their work here in Point Roberts.  The meeting lasted a couple of hours and although there were maybe only 8 or so public attendees, there were lots of questions and discussions.

Questions ranged from the status of the Verizon cellphone tower, Baker Field improvements, the 'wellness' of the Community Center, the new dock at Lighthouse Park, the commitment to the use of the Julius Firehall as a new library, and such.  It was all pretty friendly, I think, as it should be when our elected reps meet with those of us who elect them and and pay for their work.

(We don't, as it turns out, necessarily pay for THEM to do the work.  Robbins pointed out that, unlike other District Commissions, where Commissioners are at least paid about $100 per meeting, the Park and Recreation District is not allowed to receive any payment for their service.  Why this should be is a mystery to Robbins and to me.  I can't think of any conceivable reason for such a regulation.  Indeed, I think we would be far better served if people were paid for their work.  Depending upon volunteers is a fine idea, but somebody needs to provide leadership and some forward thinking and volunteers are probably not the best source for that.  But, I digress.)

Information gleaned: the Verizon Tower is moving along and Verizon is paying its $1,000/month rent for the land on which the tower stands.  That money, sad to say, increases the Park and Recreation budget by almost 25%.  And, 'sad to say,' I think, because the P&R budget is minimal and, at least in my view, not enough to do what needs to be done.  $49,000/year as compared, e.g., to the Fire District's $500,000/year.  Seriously, it's hard to argue that the Fire District's recently doubled budget increased the quality of life in Point Roberts at all, whereas the Park District's daily presence make's a big difference all the time and with a tenth of the Fire budget.

When you see the Commissioners weeding the flower beds themselves, or, as reported last night, crawling under the building on a monthly basis to assess the presence of water under the building, or spending their weekends rooting out blackberries at Baker Field because they have no money in their budget to hire anybody to do anything, well....  you have to ask whether their stated commitment to not asking the community for money via property taxes is serving anyone very well.

Because of my involvement in raising money to renovate the Julius Firehall, I have gotten interested in the state of the Community Center itself, its bad drainage, it's perpetually leaking roof.  The Commissioners acknowledged that maintenance on the building had not been done along the way and now there was a lot to do.  They have no firm figures on the work that needs to be done or even any clear study of what needs to be done, but it could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending upon what actually needs to be done.  One attendee, at the end of the meeting, cautioned that the Commissioners were, in effect, running a business, and that they needed a serious business plan to lay out a clear pathway on how they were going to address the building's needs.  Arthur Reber, who was chairing the meeting, suggested a plan that looked at a bigger goal: not just completing long-deferred maintenance but looking at restoring the building, as if it were a historic restoration.  Attendees suggested paying restoration specialists to evaluate what needed to be done and estimate what it would cost as a first step.  One of the Seniors in attendance pointed out that the community was a big supporter of the Community Center and that the Seniors Association would work to support a levy to get what needed to be done done.

I hope the Commissioners actually heard this advice.  They seem a cautious lot, but failure to do building maintenance in a rainy, cool climate like the climate we live in is hard on buildings and when the degradation goes too far, it is a long road back.  The Community Center was built 75 years ago, and while building methods may have been better in some ways then, such buildings are not going to last forever just because of those 'better' methods.

The Fire District is having its own problems of this sort in a much newer building.  Fortunately, the Fire District has a reserve/capital fund of almost a million dollars to shore up their water problems...paid for via property taxes.

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