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Millions sought for parks

Island children play in the sand at Luther Burbank Park in near-record temperatures last Friday. The parks levy stakeholders group has set forth a wide range of plans to invest in Island parks, ballfields and beaches, including Luther Burbank. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Island children play in the sand at Luther Burbank Park in near-record temperatures last Friday. The parks levy stakeholders group has set forth a wide range of plans to invest in Island parks, ballfields and beaches, including Luther Burbank.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Levy vote will

be in November

The 2008 parks levy stakeholders group is recommending two ballot measures for the November election to fund improvements to Island parks and ballfields.

The majority of the funds would go toward improving and operating Luther Burbank Park, which was acquired from King County nearly five years ago after years of financial neglect.

The committee, composed of several residents, suggested lifting a permanent levy lid of $1.16 million per year to pay for operation and maintenance costs coupled with another 20-year bond measure of $14.71 million to fund projects. The permanent levy for operations and maintenance costs needs voter approval as the City Council is limited from raising property taxes more than one percent each year without it.

The recommendation was brought before the Council Monday evening, after Reporter deadline. The recommendation is not the final measure, which must be made by the Council in the coming months before the filing date for the November ballot.

The committee recommended that 51 percent, or $8.9 million, of the funds go toward parks, $5.3 million or 30 percent toward ballfields and $3.4 million for new trails and open space. The group organized the projects under three levels of priority; however, the timing and sequence of the capital improvement projects has not yet been determined. The city has until August to finalize the ballot measures.

The stakeholders want the capital projects completed over a nine-year period with the more expensive work, namely shoreline restoration at Luther Burbank and adding more turf fields at South Mercer, to be done first.

The levy and bond combined would cost the owner of a $1 million home $242 in property taxes per year. Today, homeowners pay just $50 per million-dollar home value toward the existing Luther Burbank Levy,

Voters have shown increasing support for parks in recent years. In 2003, voters approved a six-year levy to fund the operation and maintenance of the 72-acre Luther Burbank Park. Voters also recently approved a school district technology and facilities levy that includes some ballfield improvements.

The proposed parks levy would contribute to school district costs as well. The levy would pay for the schoolÂ’s field scheduler position ($43,000 annually), provide money for district field maintenance ($120,000 annually) and other school-related parks and recreational activities ($300,000 annually).

The committee recommended spending $4 million for shoreline restoration at Luther Burbank, the largest single item in the bond. Other improvements at Luther Burbank include waterfront improvements at the docks and swim beaches, expanding the wetland boardwalk, connecting the park to the Town Center with a trail and fixing up the off-leash dog park as well as the playground. Those projects, most of which are classified as second priority, total around $4.5 million.

Adding new artificial turf and lighting at three different parks would cost about $5.3 million. One outfield at Island Crest Park would be turfed as a second priority, while additional artificial turf playfields be added at South Mercer and infields at Island Crest.

For Pioneer Park, the group suggested that an extra $77,000 be spent in addition to what is currently spent ($90,000 in 2007). Those funds would be used for reforestation of the diseased tree canopy in the park. A second-priority project sought by the committee would involve building a trail in the Engstrom Open Space adjacent to Pioneer Park for $240,000.

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