Editor’s note: The city of West Plains has stated its intention to run a weekly series of stories to educate voters on the Parkside House issue, which will be on the Nov. 5 municipal ballot. Part 1 of the series was published in the Sept. 28 Quill. A rebuttal has been submitted by the initiative committee.
The city has chosen to write a weekly series to “educate voters” on the Parkside House issue. Education should involve transparency by being told both sides of the issue in a fair and nonpartisan manner. As Paul Harvey used to say, “this is the rest of the story.”
The citizens’ petition is an effort to work together. The petition was created by combining the best of the city’s own proposal (total cost to the city per their approved proposal is $615,734) and the Friends of Parkside proposal (total capital requirement, $602,757). Our initiative proposal utilizes the public funds already budgeted by the city as well as private funds. Our proposal reduces the city’s funding by $65,000. Transparency.
“ALL-INCLUSIVE” PLAYGROUND INCLUDED
Contrary to the city’s representations, the citizen’s petition includes an “all-inclusive playground.” That concept is supported 100% by our committee and is mandated for the city to pursue if our petition passes. Voting yes means you are voting to have “an all-inclusive park.”
The citizen’s petition does not include the small but very expensive splash pad (city estimate, $89,173). The citizen’s committee is not against a splash pad, but feels this is something that needs more discussion and input from citizens before it is placed in the park.
USE OF SALES TAX FUNDS
The city has a capital improvement sales tax that can only be used for “capital improvements projects.” The tax has a sunset clause and had to be voted for renewal in April of 2012. If the city had honored the commitment made to the citizens of West Plains in the 2012 election, the house would have already been rehabbed and this vote would not be necessary. Transparency.
This is the wording on ballot from 2012: “Shall the municipality of West Plains extend the imposition of its existing sales tax of one half of one percent (1/2 of 1% for the purpose of funding capital improvements including but not limited to, acquisition of playground equipment … and rehab or construction of a Butler Park Building.”
These actions were not just examples of what the funds would be used for, but a commitment to the citizens of West Plains to use the approved funds for these projects. Every single one of the other items listed on the ballot have been completed using Capital Improvement funds. There is only one building in Butler Park that could be rehabbed — Parkside House.
If the sales tax monies could be used for demolition of Parkside as the city maintains, then why didn’t the city include that wording on the ballot right next to the words “rehab or construction?” Transparency.
The city claims in their financial opinion, and the mayors’ column, that the estimate to rehab the house is $1,000,000. This is a totally made up number not supported by any estimate ever made by a construction professional.
In fact, the city published a request for proposals (RFP) in June of 2018. In the RFP the city stated, “estimates for updating the building fall in the range of $600,000 to $800,000.” The City omits the fact that the Citizens petition allows for the rehab in phases as the City and a citizens committee work together to use funds as they are available to rehab the house.
Our next segment will be on the ballot wording the city is using for the election.