Will Patrella’s Successor Embrace The Park And Rec Master Plan?

In November, 2016, the City Commission voted unanimously to adopt the Park and Rec Master Plan. Less than two months later (and not because of this), Director Joe Patrella resigned his position for a job in Arizona.

With the search to succeed Patrella still ongoing, important questions persist for the City, and for its taxpayers.

The Master Plan, conceived by Indiana-based PROS Consulting, recommends much in its 176 pages. Primarily, it identifies $12,614,160 in “critical” capital improvement programs — “Maintaining What We Have.” Among the expenditures are $102,575 for the Americans Little League Complex, $114,010 for Boston Heights Park, $1,020,000 for “Charles Russel [sic] Park,” and $2,935,000 for Gibson Park, among many others (p. 140).

PROS Consulting also details $1.15 million in “sustainable” capital improvements — “Improving What We Have.” The consultants suggested the City spend $100,000 to convert six tennis courts to pickle ball courts (pickle ball?), $500,000 to add five large picnic shelters at Gibson, Grande Vista, Jaycee, and Meadowlark Parks, $150,000 for two more dog parks, and $400,000 for additional master plans (p. 141).

The plan also solves the long-standing community riddle of the City’s failing indoor aquatics program: build a 50,000 square foot “Multi-Generational Center that replaces the existing Recreation Center and Moronoy [sic] Natatorium” (for over $20 million). As for golf, the second and final line-item under the plan’s “Visionary Recommendations” (p. 142) reads: “Re-Master Plan Anaconda Hill [sic] Golf Course and convert Campground/Adventure Area through private public partnership.” In other words, shut down Anaconda and convert it into a zip-line/ropes course/BMX course/campground. The cost of this “re-mastering?” “Only” a quarter of a million dollars.

And how might the City pay for all of this, you might ask? By implementing a City-wide Parks Maintenance District. In other words, by raising taxes.

Mike Svetz of the aforementioned consulting firm pointed to Billings, which implemented a parks district a few years ago. Under its model, Billings households chip in about $6/month. With Great Falls’ comparatively smaller population but higher expenses, residents could see $15-20/month assessments per household… just for the parks district. In addition to this extra assessment, and to construct a multi-purpose structure to replace the Nat and the Community Rec Center, Svetz & Co. recommended a tax levy bond that could last for up to 15 years. The numbers start to add up quickly.

master plan
Master Plan: $34 Million To Upgrade Great Falls’ Parks

Now, to be fair, the Master Plan is “not a work order,” as the Tribune pointed out. It’s a guide to direct City priorities moving forward. But it does raise some important questions: Will Patrella’s replacement embrace the Master Plan, and will the Commission enact its central recommendations? And if not, then why? The City spent $89,970 on this document.

What do you think? Did the consultants get it right?

(The featured image is attributable to Xnatedawgx under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Image was slightly cropped.)

5 COMMENTS

  1. I wonder how much more tax pressure our local low wage/fixed income economy and citizenry can take? The master plan and recommendations are well intentioned but I’m not sure they’re very realistic as to what we can afford.

  2. I agree with Rick, some good intentions but what’s already been done – or not -with West Bank Park plan from 2011? I’m not keen on thousands and thousands spent on consultants to produce reports that gather dust at city hall. Perhaps city, county, school district AND even Malmstrom AFB should work jointly on a Joint Community Recreation Facility, not put it all on the back of city residents already liable for the big school bonds just passed. Let’s not put another ‘hand in the pockets’ of homeowners, landlords, renters and taxpayers by ‘saddling’ citizens with paying for a Park maintenance District which isn’t necessary with superior due diligence and effective local government.

  3. “I’m not keen on thousands and thousands spent on consultants to produce reports that gather dust at city hall.”

    This.

    Sign Code, anyone? Land Use Code, anyone?

    • And wasn’t there a big to do over a report on how to improve golf course revenue a few years back? And of course, all the reports on the coal plant. And water rights. Water park. Downtown parking. All things that cost thousands of dollars for reports, which, as we can see, really helped out.

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