Town park in money limbo
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: June 14, 2012
Teton County Commissioners will have to decide whether to kick in more than $150,000 to help pay for the first phase of developing a park in east Jackson.
Town Councilors on Monday set aside $157,000 for the May Park, which they have considered developing for some time. However, they said they only would spend the money if the county also pitched in.
“It’s not a push to make the other guy step up to the plate,” Mayor Mark Barron said Wednesday. “We’ve talked about it for years.”
The proposal, which would pay for some initial work at Wayne May Park, was yanked from a project listing earlier in the town and county budgeting process. Councilors, however, decided to put the project back in their budget Monday.
County commissioners haven’t talked about the proposal yet.
“We’ll have to evaluate it in the context of the other budget issues we have, our obligations and responsibilities, the other capital projects that were on the list and aren’t anymore, for example the Melody Ranch Park,” County Commission Chairman Ben Ellis said. He made his remarks Wednesday after learning of town officials’ decision.
If county officials choose to contribute to the project, they will do so at a slightly higher level than the town, County Administrator Steve Foster said.
The two entities split the parks and recreation budget 55 percent to 45 percent. The county picks up the larger share because it receives more sales tax money from the state.
Foster said Wednesday that he hadn’t had a chance to talk to commissioners about town officials’ proposal.
County officials typically review requests for the parks and recreation department against several criteria, he said. County staff generally give priority to existing equipment and facilities and review proposals for new amenities after that, Foster said.
“Our priority is to take care of what we own,” he said.
County officials set aside $70,000 for playground equipment for a park in Alta, which has been left unfinished for years. While they set aside money for the playground, they delayed spending money on restrooms there.
They also delayed completing a park in the Melody Ranch subdivision. County officials will probably review plans for that park next year to see when they will be able to move forward with it, Foster said.
Barron said the money town councilors set aside for May Park would probably be used to clean up the property and build a simple path on it. While minimal, the work would allow residents access.
“It would be the first time people could get out there and enjoy the property,” Barron said.
The town purchased the land from the Mays in the early 1990s but did not take possession until 1999. Town officials paid $200,000, which represented a gift of approximately $1 million from the family.
As part of the sale, family members stipulated that the land be used as a public park.