August 27, 2018 9:38:50 AM
Starkville's parks and recreation department is looking at a range of improvements across its facilities, should aldermen approve a proposed budget with a significant increase in parks spending.
The city is considering a millage increase to help fund a $21.77 million Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget, which includes $836,000 in new spending compared to the current fiscal year. Almost half of that spending, or $440,000, is expected to go to the parks department as the city continues its push to bring its recreation facilities up to par with neighboring communities.
But during a budget hearing at last week's Board of Aldermen meeting, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver said some of his constituents weren't sure what the big increase in spending would be going toward.
"That's where I'm getting a lot of questions," Carver said. "That's almost half a million dollars."
Parks and Recreation Manager Gerry Logan, speaking at the meeting, pointed to two projects at the Sportsplex as examples of what might would be addressed with the new funding.
"We've got drainage issues at the soccer fields and some piping issues that's upwards of $50,000, as an example," Logan said. "The Travis Outlaw (Center's) roof is probably $40,000. Those are just rough estimates, but those some of the things that could be coming."
In an interview with The Dispatch, Logan said he's keeping a list of projects that need to be addressed throughout the parks department. He said the list is still in-progress and in-flux -- especially with the budget process ongoing.
Public safety, which includes accessibility enhancements, will likely be an early focus, Logan said. He also wants to take on projects that will visually improve the parks.
"We want people to see the impacts," he said. "Some of it relates back to the comprehensive plan that was done back in 2016 and trying to add more infrastructure to the parks -- benches and picnic tables and garbage cans and stuff like that'll make a difference visually and help us keep control of things.
"There are basketball courts that need resurfacing," he later added. "We've got outdoor walking tracks that need resurfacing. There's any number of stuff that we could do, but we'll see if the budget gets approved and we'll address what we can."
Some projects, like the drainage and roof repairs at the Sportsplex, Logan said, won't make much of an immediate difference to everyday people who use the parks but are important for keeping the facilities in good shape.
Mayor Lynn Spruill said such maintenance projects, visible or not, are important for taking care of Starkville's existing facilities. She said that's especially true while Starkville considers building a new, multi-million dollar tournament-ready facility at Cornerstone Park on Highway 25.
"The reality is, if we don't take care of what we've got, we'll be hard-pressed to make the case that we need to do something more," she said. "I think we all want to do the larger picture with Cornerstone Park, but we've got to take care of what we've got or nobody will be able to make the case that we deserve to go bigger and better."
Ward 3 Alderman David Little recalled the city's comprehensive planning process for the parks, where maintenance and neglect were named as some of the biggest problems with the parks system. As such, Little said he feels the city needs to invest in its parks.
"It's like a house," Little said. "If you neglect your house and put off painting, next thing you've got rotting wood. It's going to cost a lot more to bring it up to speed. We, as a city, have been guilty of that, I think -- not keeping our parks up to par.
"If we're not willing to reinvest in our parks to the tune of $400,000, we don't need to be talking about spending money on a tournament-quality park," he added. "We need to move on to something else."
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