The Frederick Board of Aldermen made the right call last week in deciding to wait for at least six months before undertaking an ambitious project to plan the renovation and development of the city’s parks.
In these times of uncertainty about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial future of the city government, now is not the time to proceed as if we will be back to normal by summer.
The city has 73 parks, two pools and a municipal golf course. Under normal circumstances, we would not be opposed to spending money to make certain that these facilities are being developed and maintained in the most useful fashion for the benefit of our residents.
The administration was asking for the money to hire the consulting firm GreenPlay LLC to develop the comprehensive plan to guide development and redevelopment of parkland, and to help prioritize the needs.
“This is going to give us a working road map, if you will,” Bob Smith, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, told the mayor and aldermen.
But — and this is a big but — the price tag was $241,000.
We know that the city is facing a drop in revenues because of the pandemic, just based on the steep decline in economic activity since the pandemic swept over our nation and our state in February and March.
The city finance department is predicting revenue decreases of about $3 million in the current fiscal year, which will end June 30. Right now, the city is projecting a $5.5 million drop in the next fiscal year, but no one at this point can predict with any confidence what that decline will actually be.
Now is time to hunker down and wait out the storm. We applaud the aldermen for voting unanimously to table the proposal and look at it again in six months. We would suggest that, short of a dramatic turnaround, this project should be put off until the board is considering the 2022 fiscal budget a year from now.
As Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak commented: “It seems like a lot of money just in the middle of something so big.”
It is not as if the parks department will be sitting idle. A playground dedicated to the memories of two Myersville sisters who died in a 2013 house fire is continuing to move forward.
The project called Sophie & Madigan’s Playground, is to be built at the city’s future Westside Regional Park. Parks Superintendent Scott Geasey told the mayor and aldermen the department hopes to break ground this summer.
The playground will honor the memories of Sophie Lillard, 6, and her sister Madigan, 3, who died when their family’s house near Myersville caught fire in 2013.
The Lillard family’s foundation has raised more than $400,000 to pay for the equipment. The city has approved a $144,000 contract to Playground Specialists Inc. to pay for infrastructure improvements including sidewalks, benches, trash cans and dog waste stations.
The park will be a living memorial to the two little girls, and a place where families will be able to create happy memories for years to come. It is an example of the best of the city park system.
There will be enough time in the future to consider how the entire park system might develop — when we know how much money we will have to spend.