Advisory boards outline proposed tax

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A proposed half-cent sales tax could fund an estimated $36.9 million in parks and storm-water projects in the city of Cape Girardeau, members of the parks and golf course advisory boards told the city council Monday night.

But park board member Danny Essner cautioned that even with the tax it would take years to do all of the projects.

The list includes 10 major parks projects:

* $6 million for a water park -- possibly at Osage Park -- and replacement of Capaha Pool with a water spray area.

* $5.9 million to renovate the Central Municipal Pool bath house and replace the air-supported bubble roof with a permanent enclosure.

* $5.58 million for general parks improvement and acquisition of future park land.

* $4 million for improvements to the Osage Community Centre, including an expanded fitness room, more meeting rooms, locker and shower facilities, more storage and added parking.

* $3.5 million for improvements to the Shawnee Park sports complex, including new soccer and softball fields, and construction of a youth tackle football field and a new rest room/concession facility.

* $2.25 million for the municipal golf course improvements, including an expanded pro shop, rebuilding of the greens and replacement of the leaking irrigation system.

* $1.39 million for major renovations to the 68-year-old A.C. Brase Arena Building, including replacement of a leaky roof and air conditioning and heating systems, electrical upgrades, and storage, office and meeting room additions.

* $1.1 million for improvements to Arena Park and Capaha Park youth athletic fields.

* $1 million for expansion of the walking trails as well as the addition of lighting and restrooms along the trail system.

* $721,000 for a new restroom/locker/concession/storage building and a new maintenance shed for Capaha Field.

The major parks projects total $36.9 million. The city has identified more than $5 million worth of needed storm-water projects that would also be funded by the proposed tax.

In addition, the spending plan includes $3.3 million to purchase parks vehicles and equipment, and $1.2 million to help pay operational costs for parks and recreation and storm-water services.

About 40 members of the parks and golf boards, as well as five members of the city council and several city staff members attended the meeting held at the Osage Community Centre.

It's envisioned that the family aquatic center would be constructed at Osage Park. But Mayor Jay Knudtson wondered if it might not be better to locate the water park at the new Interstate 55 interchange being constructed in Cape Girardeau County.

That could make it a regional attraction, he said.

Some business leaders have talked of developing a soccer complex and a minor league ballpark at that location, the mayor said. A water park could be a good fit with such attractions, he told the advisory boards.

Knudtson questioned if the council could ask voters to approve a tax measure without knowing where the water park would be built.

The mayor said some council members have expressed concern about eliminating a swimming pool at Capaha Park.

The parks and golf course boards recommended that 3/8 of the proposed tax be earmarked for capital projects and 1/8 of a cent be budgeted for operational expenses.

Essner said the tax would generate an estimated $3 million annually for parks and storm-water capital projects and $1 million annually for operational expenses.

The advisory boards suggested that the council consider asking voters to approve a permanent tax rather than have it expire after a certain number of years.

Essner said the city currently doesn't have enough tax money to adequately maintain the existing parks and golf course. "Right now, we are playing catch up," he told the council.

Knudtson said the council would have to act by August to get the issue on the November ballot. The council is expected to discuss the issue at its regular meeting next week.

Both he and Councilwoman Loretta Schneider suggested that the council will have to clearly define how the money would be spent and prioritize the projects in an effort to secure voter approval.

Essner suggested the city consider issuing $25 million in revenue bonds that could be paid off over 10 years with proceeds from the sales tax.

But even such a bond issue wouldn't provide enough money to do all of the improvements listed, he said. "We still have some details we need to iron out," said Essner.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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