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Council schedules parks district vote for April

After months of discussion at workshops and at park board meetings, the City Council is poised to call for an election in April on the creation of a metropolitan parks district.

The city's parks board forwarded to the council three options, including the April vote, a November vote and a simple resolution calling for an election, but not giving a specific date.

During the Dec. 4 workshop, the council discussed the issue again, with some council members questioning whether there was enough time before the April election date to get the information about the district out to the public.

"I think that April is just too darn soon," Councilman Jim Rackley said, asking if it was in the city's best interest to spend the money to put the measure on the ballot with such a short run-up to the election.

"I support all this, but I think it's too soon," he said.

It is estimated to cost about $25,000 to run a ballot measure in April while some of that cost could be mitigated in November because of other issues on the ballot.

Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said he agreed the timing was "difficult" but he felt it was time to hold the election and that he has talked with the people who will be supporting the measure and they believe there is time.

Councilman Donn Lewis agreed.

"I believe it's time to put this on the ballot," he said. "If we really think we're ready I'd like to see us put it on there and the park board says we're ready."

Lewis said it was not about the money for him, but thought not running it would be a "slap in the face" to all those who have worked for the past year on the project.

Councilwoman Katrina Minton-Davis said she believed an April vote was better because in November, people are not thinking about going out to parks, while in April, it is at the forefront.

"They will be thinking about being outdoors and wanting to use a park," she said, adding that while she too was concerned about the timeframe, she would defer to those more closely involved with the planning.

Rackley said he would support an April vote if the rest of the council felt there was time.

All members of the council believe a metropolitan parks district, which would provide a steady, specific funding mechanism for parks through a separate taxing authority, is the right way for the city to go with its park needs.

The council is expected to pass an ordinance calling for an April vote on Tuesday.

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