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CITY BUDGET: Robron field or Seawalk extension, city council weighs its options

Coun. Andy Adams attempted Monday to get council to commit to an all-weather field at Robron Park, a project that has been bounced around the city’s financial books for the past few years.

Adams put a motion on the floor to move money around in the city’s parks and recreation budget to accommodate Robron improvements that have been on the city’s radar since the lacrosse box was put in two years ago.

Adams wanted to shift $250,000 earmarked for the Big Rock Boat Ramp improvements from the 2014 budget and move it to 2015, then move $250,000 for the Maryland Road/Jubilee Seawalk extension from 2015 to 2016, and add in $250,000 allocations for an all-weather field at Robron in both the 2014 and 2015 budgets.

“Councils have spent a couple hundred thousand doing Robron Park designs, I think it’s time to move on this project in whatever capacity we can,” Adams said during Monday’s budget planning meeting. “To not do it now and pushing it off to 2015 and 2016 would undoubtedly mean we’d have to do a new plan. We could get it done and move on so I can stop brow beating council.

“This is what the community has asked for,” said Adams, referring to a recent Parks Plan survey that revealed the community’s top priority is Robron Park, followed by improvements to the city’s two public boat ramps.

Council was considering funding the $1.7 million project through the city’s Fixed Asset Replacement Fund, a city reserve fund in which any money taken from the account needs to be replaced. Council was looking at bumping up the Parks Parcel Tax to $50 this year and paying back the funds through the tax.

However, Laura Ciarniello, the city’s general manager of corporate services, told council there’s no money in the budget to do Robron Park.

She said that with Adams’ method, money was not being taken out of the budget, only moved around and put off until future years while still adding two extra $250,000 expenditures for Robron.

“If Big Rock Boat Ramp was to be deleted right out of the Parks Parcel Tax schedule and the Seawalk deleted completely, then $250,000 from those two projects could go to Robron, but delaying those two projects does not free up money for Robron,” Ciarniello said.

Adams said council may need to re-consider its priorities.

“Big Rock and Robron in the parks survey had the highest percentage of any other project,” Adams said. “While all the projects are desirable...this is what the public wants to do and they’ve clearly told us that. I would recommend the Seawalk come off and be deleted from the 2013-2017 plan.”

With that, the meeting was called to give staff time to report back on the implications. Staff was expected to report back at the beginning of Tuesday’s financial meeting after the Mirror went to press.

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