Skateboard park financing careens into asphalt cocktail

Map by MapMurals A plan of the proposed skateboard redesign project for Field School Park in Red Lodge. The existing park is to the right.

 

Plans to build a state-of-the-art skateboard park in Field School Park took a face plant at last week’s Red Lodge City Council meeting when it was discovered that proposed seed money for the project, $78,291.02, was not available. It is estimated the project will cost between $300,000 and $350,000.
 
Park Board Chairman Tom Kohley had asked the City Council for an action item to approve a request to move the money from the General Resort Tax account back into the Parks Board reserve account, as this would “help fund the start up for this park. It would give us the momentum we need,” said Kohley.
 
Kohley made the request because the Parks Board thought they had the money in reserve but it has remained in the General Resort Tax account. From 2008-2012 the Parks Board had requested only one transfer of surplus funds, that being $17,283 in 2009. Since this time no requests had been made to transfer other surpluses, amounting to $30,582.48 in 2010; $15,080.59 in 2011; and $32,627.95 in 2012. 
 
Immediately after Kohley’s request, the Council informed him that this money wasn’t available. 
 
Council member Ed Williams explained, “when the Parks Board did not come back for additional transfers, those funds were re-appropriated back into the Resort Tax and re-appropriated across the board including money they (the Parks Board) have got every year. Basically that money is gone. There is no $78,000 in reserve.”
 
 
When the Council told Kohley that the money wasn’t there, he was visibly shocked.
 
William continued, saying that, “When the police, fire, and library board come to the council every year and request transfers and we make them. Those who did not request a transfer, even Public Works, it just rolls into the next year.”
 
Kohley asked the Council what the procedure was to request transfers? 
 
“When I came on the Parks Board, I knew nothing of this, knew nothing of the procedure, I don’t think it was ever documented,” said Kohley.
 
He further added that Resolution 3257 that established the Parks Board Reserve didn’t state the process and as to whether you have to make a request or whether it is automatic. 
 
‘There is no language whatsoever,” said Kohley. 
 
The Council understood Kohley’s frustration, and agreed there needed to be better communication and support from department heads. Councilman Bill Foisy was chosen to be the city’s representative at Park’s Board meetings. 
 
It left the Council scratching their heads as to how to help the Park’s Board with this project. Suggestions about looking into this year’s budget was made but as Mike Schoenike pointed out, “Unfortunately the existing demands on our Resort tax dollars are not going away, in addition to that, we just committed to help pay for the rehab project.”
Glory Mahan added it wasn’t Kohley, or the Park’s Board’s fault.
 
“It is not too late to fix it,” she said. A statement supported by Sanderson.
 
“Just a thought as you move into budget, you’ve made promises to various departments, Parks included, that there are dollars available to them to spend on council approved items. Perhaps at the end of this fiscal year there will be unspent dollars in the resort accounts and at that point, you can look at your future obligations versus your current cash position and put some, maybe, all of this request in but you won’t know the answer until the June 15 or June 25,” said Sanderson. “To go out and rip that kind of money that’s been committed to others, I an imagine how Tom would react if I called him and said ‘you’ve spent $17,000 and no we’re going to take the other $56,000 from you because we want to do this now.’ That is not just, but as we move forward maybe there is some cash you choose not to pay forward into Fiscal 14 remembering the potential of a $67,000 a year liability (Re-hab Project). All might not be lost, Tom.”
 
On a final note, Kohley told the Council that the Park’s Board thought they had this money. 
 
“It is not too late to fix it but we have been prioritizing our Capital Improvement Projects. We thought we had this money. We’ve been planning for a project such as this for many years. We cannot improve our parks or trails without this reserve account and again because we do not have any over sight, we are an advisory board, we are not aware of the process for transferring this money. It slipped by us, we’re community members, we’re volunteers, we don’t know these things, and because of that we’ve probably lost the chance to start on this park this year. It is disappointing,” he said. 
 
The new skateboard park slated for Field School Park will be 10,000 sq.ft and have subsurface bowls, allow for various vehicles from skateboards, scooters, and bikes, a spectator area, water fountains and be capable of hosting events.
 
“It will reflect community pride, be a source of community pride, and serve as a regional attraction. 
 
It will draw people into the community, and will be kept in the same location as the Boys and Girl’s club,” said Kohley. 
 
The reasoning behind the redesign is the present facility is too small and has skateboard features that are worn out and could be potentially a liability for the city. 
 
A Public hearing will be held over the new skateboard park at 5 p.m., in the City Council Chambers, on Wednesday, Feb. 20.  Additionally, the City Council will conduct a public hearing on the issue as a portion of their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, March 12.  The City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.