BAXTER -- A joint meeting between the Baxter City Council and its Parks and Trails Commission is in the works after discussion Tuesday, Nov. 5, to get both governing bodies on the same page, as well as to potentially address funding issues for some park initiatives.
Mayor Darrel Olson directed staffers to arrange a meeting with the commission, while staffers noted it would likely take place sometime in November, if not later than mid-December.
Ever since the Parks and Trails Commission was involved in long-term comprehensive planning in 2015, the commission has found itself with few options to pursue and dwindling funds to make these initiatives a reality, Community Development Director Josh Doty said. It’s prompted the commission to reduce its meetings to a quarterly basis, but funding — particularly monies in the vital Park Dedication Fund — aren’t being replenished, which has tied the hands of its members and resulted in a light workload with little tangible progress.
“The amount of activity they’ve been able to work on, it’s been pretty light,” Doty said. “I think they’ve struggled with that. … I think they want to have a discussion. I think they want to look at other options for funding sources.”
Doty said the commission is requesting a joint meeting, with the possible discussion point of pursuing donations from local organizations as a starter. He said another direction the council could take would be to reduce meetings further until the Park Dedication Fund can be bolstered.
Olson said he was open to meeting face-to-face with the Parks and Trails Commission members, just as he was inclined to have similar meetings with all Baxter city commissions. That said, Olson noted the Parks and Trails members are an ambitious group in their drive to make improvements.
“This is an energetic bunch and that’s great,” Olson said. “They’re frustrated because they want to build and do things. So, they’ve rekindled the question of can we go out and solicit funds. We’ve had this in the past and we didn’t want people going out and begging for money. Maybe we’ll revisit that.”
Much of the Parks and Trails Commission's position revolves around a potential project to establish a dog park that’s been passed down by the council, while the commission has been floating the idea for years. A more definitive course forward may be in the interest of both parties, Doty said.
“The reality is that we don't have a lot of money to spend and I think that’s frustrating for everybody,” Doty added.
Council member Todd Holman disagreed that the Park Dedication Fund should be the only way of funding projects like new trails, walking bridges, dog parks or others.
“We’ve imposed this way of behaving that’s ridiculous,” Holman said. “We can levy, or bond, or find other ways of funding. We might sit down and say, ‘No, this is the Park Dedication Fund and you’re going to work within it,’ but I’d like to see what other cities do for the capital funding of parks and improvements.”
“I’m really disappointed when we promise projects and don’t deliver,” Holman added. “I’m in 100% support of the meeting, but I’d like to be prepared to talk about all the ways to participate and not just talk about the infamous Park Dedication Fund. It’s too restricting.”
Holman noted that, should the city decide to solicit funding, that the authority rest with the council and not in the hands of the Parks and Trails Commission. How soliciting should take place with limited staff, how the funding is collected, or where it goes, he said, must be determined.