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Two officials say county can't afford park takeover

April 22, 2004|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Some Washington County Commissioners are opposed to taking Kirkwood Park off the hands of the Hancock Town Council because it needs about $260,000 in repairs.

Hancock Mayor Daniel A. Murphy asked the county in October 2003 to consider taking over the 155.75-acre park, saying the town could not afford to develop and properly maintain it, according to information provided by the county.

County Commissioner John C. Munson said Wednesday that the county couldn't afford it either.

"I'm not in favor of taking it over," Munson said. "I don't think that's going to fly. We can't afford that."

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About 130 acres of the park are wooded and the rest is maintainable ground, according to an analysis by Jim Sterling, county director of buildings, grounds and parks. The park has five fields, but only three are used. The other two are in a flood plain and need improvements, according to the analysis.

Sterling recommended in the analysis removing fencing and the dugouts, re-seeding the infields and using the area as multi-purpose fields for soccer, lacrosse or football.

The park needs a stream crossing replacement at a cost of $180,000, patching and paving work costing $55,0000 and new multi-purpose fields costing $25,000, the analysis states.

It would also cost $10,800 a season to mow the park, the analysis stated.

The county's Recreation and Parks Board voted on Jan. 8 to ask that the County Commissioners endorse making the park, located behind Widmeyer Memorial Park, a county park.

The majority of the commissioners toured the field with the Hancock Town Council on Tuesday.

Munson did not take the tour, but said he reviewed Sterling's analysis.

"If we can't afford to reduce the property tax by a couple of cents, we can't afford to take over a park," Munson said.

Munson proposed Monday that the commissioners reduce the property tax rate. The commissioners did not take a vote on his proposal.

"My preference would be to partner with the Town of Hancock in making the improvements but leaving it with the town," Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said.

Wivell said he didn't think the county would have the money to do any repairs until the state restores a dwindling Program Open Space budget.

"POS money is pretty hard to come by right now," Wivell said.

The state program provides money to maintain state and local parks and conservation areas.

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