By K.D. Norris
City of Wyoming voters on Tuesday, May 2, approved a ballot proposal to allow the city to utilize .16 of its .39 library maintenance millage to put toward some of the $23 million in park needs. The unofficial vote results were 2,982 to 2,214, or about 57 percent in support of the proposal.
According to the city, the nearly $800,000 per year raised can now be used to pay a 15-year bond of $4.4 million. The bond money would be dedicated for park improvements at Ideal, Jackson, Ferrand, and Gezon. The current Parks and Recreation millage of 1.5 mills annually captures $2.9 million, which is used to fund recreation programs, maintenance services and basic facility upkeep.
“We are very pleased that the citizens of Wyoming have given us the flexibility to invest in our park system,” Rynbrandt said. “By allowing us to change the way we spend our dedicated library maintenance millage, we can make significant capital improvements in four parks: Ferrand, Gezon, Ideal and Jackson.
“This will be a multi-year process with an eye to have all projects completed within the next four years. Residents will start to see physical improvements to one or more of the parks as early as next spring.”
Current library maintenance
The request was not an increase in the amount of library millage collected and will not reduce the City’s ability to maintain the Kent District Library branch at 3350 Michael Ave. SW.
The library maintenance millage is only to maintain the actually facility, which is owned by the City of Wyoming. Kent District Library operates the library services and owns the collection. Operations of the library and the collection are funded through a Kent District Library millage, which is a 1.28 mill levy, which covers all 18 branches within the KDL system.
The city recently completed more than $650,000 in renovations to the library facility that includes a new roof and the revamping of the former cafe to a public space. Upon review, city staff determined that there would be no major renovation projects needed for the library facility within the next 10 years, Rynbrandt said prior to the vote.
Park needs and plans
With funding for park work now approved, plans for work can now begin.
“We are eager to begin, as there is much to do,” Rynbrandt said. “Our next steps will include formulating individual project timelines which will range from a public engagement process to update the Gezon Park development plan, to engaging engineers, landscape architects and other consultants in the creation of construction documents and processing of necessary permits for each unique park development.
“We’ll be regularly updating the community through the Parks and Recreation Commission, City Council, the Parks and Recreation brochure and social media.”
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. 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.
Jackson Park also was impacted by the tornados but also has a need for better stormwater control along with improved security and safety. Ferrand Park is a small pocket park that has not have any major improvements in a number of years and Gezon Park is surrounded by intense residential growth with the central area of the park needing to be developed.