Brandon voters say 'no' to $12.5 million park bond
November 06. 2013 9:35AM
After seeing voters soundly reject a $12.5 million bond to upgrade Aspen Park, the Brandon City Council will need to rethink what projects will do the park the most good.
“We’ll have to fix the problems that we currently have,” Brandon Parks Board Chairman Jon Jacobson said.
By a margin of more than 13 to 1, Brandon voters on Oct. 29 rejected an expansion to Aspen Park that would have doubled the size of the park and added more ball fields and playground equipment, paved parking and sidewalks, and upgrades to the city’s swimming pool.
Of the city’s 6,192 registered voters, 2,077, or 33.5 percent, weighed in on the $12.5 million bond proposal, with 1,940 voting against the bond and only 134 voting in favor. One blank vote was turned in, one vote went missing and one vote was subject to confirmation because of a question about the voter’s eligibility.
Verla Sturdevant said it was the biggest turnout she has seen in the more than 20 years she has been an election worker.
Tom Pickering voted no, saying he thought the price was “just a little too aggressive.”
“Brandon’s growing, but there’s only so much money to go around,” he said.
Others might have voted no because of a $5.95 million Brandon Valley school bond election planned for Dec. 3. If passed, the bond will be added to existing capital outlay money to pay for a $12 million new school for grades five and six.
Aspen Park did undergo improvements from 2005 to 2010.
“We spent between $60,000 and $80,000 a year for five years,” Assistant City Administrator Dennis Olson said. During that time, the city added a second concession stand and playground improvements to the park, as well as lights and new dugouts on all the fields. “We were moving from field to field,” he said.
Brandon Alderwoman Barb Fish was surprised at Tuesday’s city election results.
“I did think we would get more support from the people who use the facilities,” she said.
A past citywide survey indicated that residents want improvements to the swimming pool, which was built in 1990. The bond would have directed $2.5 million to replace the kiddie pool with a zero-depth entrance pool and would have added play elements such as a climbing wall and basketball hoops to the main pool.
“The unfortunate thing is we aren’t going to be able to do anything with the pool,” Fish said. “One of my concerns is what’s going to happen if we have a mechanical failure or something, because we don’t have the funds for that.”
The Brandon Valley Baseball Association and the Brandon Area Youth Softball Association are the biggest users of the Aspen Park, with a total of 1,100 players registered last season.
The ball associations didn’t initiate talk about doubling the park size, though. That idea came from business.
“We were having a park board meeting when a couple of people from the business community came to talk about the condition of the park,” said Al Kirkeby, chairman of the task force that put together the bond proposal.
The business owners said they had noticed lower attendance at tournaments, which also lessened patronage at their businesses. They also cited negative comments from customers regarding the park’s facilities.
Jacobson said drainage and a second entrance are his top priorities for Aspen Park, but he would like more public input as to what is important to residents, now that the bond proposal has failed.
In any case, no work can be done at Aspen Park until 2015 at the earliest, because next year’s budget already is allocated, Fish said.
“I think what we have to look at is what’s the most pressing priority at Aspen Park and try to dedicate some money to that in 2015,” Fish said. “We’ll talk to baseball and softball and (city parks manager) Devin Coughlin to see what’s the most pressing need out there, based on their viewpoints. I think it’s going to be drainage and irrigation, but we’ll wait and see.”
The task force will reconvene as well to study future options. But residents shouldn’t look for a pared-down proposal or another bond election.
“I don’t anticipate that we will bring forth a reduced bond issue. Maybe down the road, but not in the near future,” Fish said.
“Not with this result,” Jacobson said, citing Tuesday’s election numbers.
Registered voters 6,192
Turnout 33.5 percent