Parks levy pushed to August 2016 ballot

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By Ian Ferguson

Blaine City Council chose not to put a proposed parks levy on the November ballot, instead waiting until the August 2016 ballot to allow time for more review.

A subcommittee of the Blaine Parks and Cemetery Board proposed the parks levy to fund capital improvements on existing parks, new pedestrian and bike paths and downtown beautification within Blaine city limits. The proposed levy is for $0.32 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Over four years it would raise approximately $1 million from Blaine taxpayers.

The Blaine Parks and Cemetery Board had recommended council put the levy on the November ballot, but at their July 27 meeting council members voted 4–1, with Charlie Hawkins opposed, to postpone putting the levy to voters until the 2016 primary election in August. Mayor Harry Robinson said he wanted more time for several reasons. City council has not yet held a public hearing, and Robinson said he would value the public’s opinion on the levy and the projects it would fund. He said he would like to see more exact cost projections of the projects that are being planned, and that council should evaluate these projects within the context of other capital improvements slated for the near future, including the Blaine Public Library.

“We’re getting reports that the needs of the library are getting pretty desperate,” Robinson said. “They’re going to want some quick action because the building that they’re in is inadequate. So how do we balance these capital projects? It’s an excellent report, but I think before the council supports it we need to be thinking about these other issues and I don’t think we have the time to do that
tonight.”

Under the current proposal,  the levy would be used to extend Peace Portal Trail to Blaine city limits (called the Bay to Bay International Trail), build a playground, picnic area and other possible improvements in Lincoln Park, develop shoreline access at Montfort Park, Ruby Street and Marine Drive, as well as improve the skate park and the parklets on Peace Portal Drive. The full recommendations can be viewed on the city’s website at tinyurl.com/nflpanc. The levy would require 51 percent voter approval to pass.

City staff members are unsure how the levy would mesh with future plans of the Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 (BBBPRD2), which has funded a number of capital improvements in Blaine parks. This year alone BBBPRD2 has contributed $270,000 to build a playground in Marine Park, $30,000 to build a pavilion at the Blaine Community Center and $40,000–60,000 for the Peace Portal Trail, according to director Ted Morris.

Blaine city manager Dave Wilbrecht said city staff would use the extra time between now and the August 2016 ballot to not only gain more definition and public input for the levy, but also to work with BBBPRD2 to ensure both can work towards the common goal of better parks.

“We want to work collaboratively with them and not compete or double-dip with taxpayer money,” Wilbrecht said.

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