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Tot lot funding vote postponed

Members of the city’s Economic Development Committee, after about 90 minutes of debate Wednesday night, postponed action on a request for city financial support for development of a playground on a vacant lot at 1125 Dewey Ave.

Members of the city’s Economic Development Committee, after about 90 minutes of debate Wednesday night, postponed action on a request for city financial support for development of a playground on a vacant lot at 1125 Dewey Ave.

The project hit a snag when city officials determined that, because of accounting errors, a city fund that appeared to have the $50,000 the neighbors backing the project wanted, instead has a deficit of nearly $34,000.

Aldermen and other committee members struggled to decide whether to use other funds for the project and to assess the viability of promises by the neighbors to come up with about half the anticipated $220,000 cost of the park through private fundraising — with the rest projected to come from a variety of city and state government sources.

Although the proposed park site is only a block-and-a-half from Robert Crown Park, one of the city’s largest parks, the neighbors say their area has far fewer small playgrounds suitable for pre-school children than other parts of the city.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who chaired the committee meeting, said, "It’s clear we have a lot of interest on the part of the committee, but we have a lot of questions, and I think there are too many questions to take a vote tonight."

Committee members requested that the city’s parks director, Doug Gaynor, and city attorney, Grant Farrar, attend the next committee meeting on May 26, and in the meantime research funding and legal issues related to the proposal.

Although some aldermen voiced concerns about losing property tax revenue by taking the parcel off the tax rolls, most seemed persuaded that a tot lot would do enough to increase the value of nearby homes to more than offset that loss.

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