By Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
With much of the necessary updates made to the City of Wyoming’s library building, Wyoming officials are now turning their attention to its parks by asking its voters to allow the city’s dedicated library maintenance millage to be opened up to make improvements at four of its parks.
The proposal will go before voters at the May 2 election. It is requesting that about .16 of the .39 library maintenance levy be used to help with park improvements. The nearly $800,000 per year raised would be used to pay a 15-year bond of $4.4 million. The bond money would be used for four parks: Ideal, Jackson, Ferrand, and Gezon.
“From a mill levy standpoint it is less than $12 a year,” said Wyoming’s Director of Community Services Rebecca Rynbrandt. “So it is the average cost for a homeowner in the City of Wyoming less than one cup of coffee a month.”
The City of Wyoming’s request is not an increase to voters but would allow the city more flexibility in using the library maintenance funds for park improvements.
“By being creative, by being flexible, we can meet the needs of this community without having to ask voters for an increase in millage,” said Rynbrandt, who oversees the city’s Park and Recreation Department.
More than $650,000 in facility improvements have been made at the library, which is located at 3350 Michael Ave. SW. Those improvements have included a new roof and the conversion of the former library cafe into a public meeting space. The library is part of the Kent District Library system, which provides for all of the materials, books, CDs, etc. Those materials are covered by the KDL millage. The city’s library maintenance millage is only for the facility and would have no impact on the operation of the library, Rynbrandt said.
“So here we are at the point now where we are saying that we don’t need to make significant investment in library maintenance for the next ten years so we have a choice,” Rynbrandt said. “Can we ask the voters to recognize maintenance and capital needs in the park system and would they allow us the flexibility to use some of those library maintenance funds on park capital.”
Every five years, the City of Wyoming meets with residents and city staff to review needs at its parks. Through that process, the city has recognized more than $23 million in park improvements. In 1994, Wyoming residents did grant a park millage which for the past 20 years the city has been able to invest and maintain the parks without an increase, Rynbrandt said.
However, within four years the city has had several natural disasters — a 2013 flood, and 2014 and 2016 tornados — which has created a greater need, Rynbrandt said. Highlighting some of those needs is Ideal Park, one of the four parks that would receive funding through the millage proposal. Ideal Park was severally impacted from the 2014 tornado with its playground equipment destroyed. The city was able to remove much of the debris and get the park reopened only to have the 2016 tornado cause more damage.
Learning from those lessons, Rynbrandt said the city recognizes that it needs to improve the security at the park along with the entrances and exits. The city also would like to replace the playground equipment as well, she said.
Another park is Gezon Park, located between Gezon Parkway and 52nd Street, which has had tremendous residential growth around it. A site plan was developed for the park in 1996, which needs to be reviewed, Rynbrandt said since things have changed so much around the park.
“We didn’t have splash pads back then,” Rynbrandt said as example of some of the changes. The south and north ends of the park have been developed, but the center of the park remains mostly open with residents asking when will the development for that area begin.
Also on the list is Ferrand Park, a small pocket park located off of Byron Center, that serves a very dense residential area, Rynbrandt said. The park has not had any improvements or new equipment in a number of years.
Jackson Park is the last park on the list. Located at 1331 33rd St. SW, this park, which at one time had a swimming pool, is in an area that was once Lake Alexandria and floods frequently. One of the goals is to improve the stormwater control along with security and safety as well as put in a restroom and improve parking.