Parks and sewers

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Efforts to place a sales-tax increase on the ballot in Cape Girardeau, possibly as early as next spring, gained ground recently when the city council responded more positively to scaled-back plans for park improvements and storm-water projects.

The original wish list for parks has been cut to $20 million from $31 million, and plans for storm-water improvements have been cut to $3 million from $5 million. Another $2 million would pay for replacing park vehicles. In addition, a half-cent sales tax increase would be limited to 10 years.

The parks and recreation advisory board has been working on an improvement plan for years, identifying major needs that cannot be met through the park department's annual operating budget.

The elephant in the room at any discussion of park improvements is a water park, which has been brought up several times in recent years. Some supporters of a tax increase for parks say including a water park in the plan will attract more support voters. But others say the water park is too expensive for a facility that can only be used during summer months. Both of the city's existing pools, Central Pool with its winter bubble and Capaha Pool with its aging equipment, have serious operating issues, which is also an important factor.

Harder to sell are the storm-water improvements -- unless, of course, you are one of the hundreds of city residents affected by storm-water problems during heavy rains.

Council members appeared more receptive to the scaled-back plans but, at the urging of Mayor Jay Knudtson, held off on any action until after a city budget summit this month. Meanwhile, supporters of the proposed tax increase need to continue to educate voters about the plans.

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