City of West Plains – Parkside House Issue Info for Nov. 5 ballot

November 5 ballot question

Shall the City of West Plains (the “City”) adopt the proposed Initiative Ordinance No. I-2019-01 as an ordinance of the City?

Yes ______

No  ______

As required by City Charter Section 9.6(b), the proposed Initiative Ordinance No. I-2019-01, as well as the legal advisory opinion and summary of estimated cost, both of which are also required under Charter Section 9.2(b) and (c), are all available upon request at your polling location. Note, per Charter Section 9.2(d), the legal opinion and estimated cost summary are advisory.

The City encourages every voter to read the proposed ordinance and advisory opinions which are available at City Hall, 1910 Holiday Lane.

A “Yes” vote means the City will be required to use taxpayer funds toward the rehabilitation of Parkside House, and the City estimates the total rehabilitation expense could be as much as $1 million dollars. . .with ongoing monthly maintenance costs of $1,000 per month.

A “No” vote means the City can proceed with removing the house and move forward with their plan of building an all-inclusive playground complete with a splash pad.

1)      Proposed Ordinance I-2019-01

2)      City of West Plains legal opinion

3)      City of West Plains financial opinion

Part 1: City of West Plains Proposal in Regards to the Future of Butler Children’s Park

The City of West Plains will run a weekly series of stories to educate voters on the Parkside House issue, which will be on the November 5 municipal ballot. This is Part 1 of the series.

The future of Butler Children’s Park and what will happen to the Parkside House will be determined on the November 5 ballot. Citizens of West Plains will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on whether or not the house should be rehabilitated with taxpayer funds or if the proposal that was submitted by city staff could have a chance to come to fruition.

The proposal was supported by City Council in August 2008 and details were to construct an “all-inclusive” playground at the site, making it one of few within several hundred miles. This “all-inclusive” park will provide play experience for children of all abilities.

As part of the proposal, the Parkside House that currently sits on the property would be removed to make room for new all-inclusive playground equipment, a water “splash” pad, 37 new parking spots, new fall protection surfacing, a new grilling/picnic area, and approximately one third of a mile of new walking trails. The all-inclusive playground is designed to move beyond basic compliance with the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act and provide an enriching and accessible play experience for all children.

The City proposes to pursue a Land Water Conservation Fund grant to pay for 45 percent of the project, with the City using its labor/equipment for about 30 percent of the “match.” The only cash needed for the park (approximately $240,000) will be applied from Capital Improvement and Transportation Tax dollars, with the Capital Improvement Tax having available funds due to cost savings on the Porter Wagoner sidewalk project. That sidewalk was built primarily from grant funds.

“All Inclusive” Playground

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 4,053 students with disabilities in the region received special education services in March, 2016, with a low range of 116 in Shannon County and a high of 1,248 in Howell County. Parks Director Mike Davis said the construction of an all-inclusive playground will provide those children, and their families, with enriching play opportunities that are currently non-existent in the area.

This would also satisfy one of the three pillars of the National Recreation and Park Association: Ensuring all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation.

“An all-inclusive playground would give children of all abilities, including children with developmental and physical needs, a play space they and their families can enjoy,” said City Administrator Tom Stehn. “Playgrounds and parks should be meant for all people to enjoy, and this park will be designed so that everybody in West Plains can enjoy it.”

As proposed, the project involves three “phases”, with the first phase including the removal of the Parkside House, construction of a small water splash pad, and rehabilitation of the existing fence around the park. The second phase would include construction of new walking trails, and the installation of all-inclusive playground equipment and accompanying ADA-compliant fall protection surfacing. The third phase includes construction of 37 new parking spaces around the park, new fall protection surfacing to replace the existing pea gravel, equipment for an outdoor “workout” zone at the park, and a new picnic/grilling area.

The Future of the House  

At issue for the City of West Plains has always been the costs associated to rehab the existing house, with estimates now putting the total rehab costs at $1 million. That cost, its age, and the lack of a practical use for 4,000 square feet that can only be used for the benefit of the children per the conditions of the existing LWCF grant, complicated matters for the City moving forward. The House previously had served as the Parks and Recreation Office until 2014, when the Parks Office was relocated to the existing Winter Sports Complex off Howell Avenue.

The House was then leased by the City to the Friends of the Parkside House from 2014 until June, 2018, with that group unsuccessful in raising the funds necessary to rehab the House. During those four years, the building has sat vacant and boarded up, prompting the City Council to decline a lease renewal with the group in 2018 because of inactivity and concerns about sustainability. Safety officials deemed the House a potential hazard, particularly because of its location in the heart of an active children’s park.

Part 2: What a YES and a NO Vote Means November 5

The City of West Plains will run a weekly series of stories to educate voters on the Parkside House issue, which will be on the November 5 municipal ballot. This is Part 2 of the series.

Absentee ballots are now available at the Howell County Clerk’s office for the November 5 election. On the ballot, the only issue is the Parkside House question, Shall the City of West Plains (the “City”) adopt the proposed Initiative Ordinance No. I-2019-01 as an ordinance of the City? We wanted to take the time to really explain what voters will be voting on by explaining what a YES and NO vote mean.

A “YES” vote means the City will be required to use taxpayer funds toward the rehabilitation of Parkside House, and the City estimates the total rehabilitation expense could be as much as $1 million dollars, with ongoing monthly maintenance costs of around $1,000 per month.

GHN Architects, Springfield, Mo., provided the City a feasibility study in June 2015. That study indicated a full renovation of the Parkside House to be $792,378. Because of inflation and tariffs, the City now estimates the cost for a full rehabilitation could be as much as $1 million dollars today.

A “NO” vote means the City can proceed with removing the house and move forward with their plan of building an all-inclusive playground complete with a splash pad.

The City wants to encourage every voter to read the proposed ordinance and advisory opinions which are available at City Hall, 1910 Holiday Lane.

Part 3: Facts Surrounding Parkside House

The City of West Plains will run a weekly series of stories to educate voters on the Parkside House issue, which will be on the November 5 municipal ballot. This is Part 3 of the series related to facts surrounding the house and legal issues.

  • In late Fall 2018, the City of West Plains was served with a restraining order that prevents the City from taking any action on the Parkside House.
  • Late winter 2018, an initiative petition process was started by a group of five citizens (Richard J. Davidson, Richard C. Davidson, Barbara Butler, Whitney Frazier and Christy Frazier) that calls for the City to redirect funds into the rehab and maintenance of the House. The group was able to secure the necessary signatures to put the issue on the November 5 ballot.
  • The City of West Plains sued the petitioners committee, claiming the ordinance proposed is unconstitutional and violates the Missouri Constitution and the West Plains Home Rule Charter, because the ordinance appropriates money without creating or providing for new funds to cover the expenses incurred by the City under the terms of the ordinance.
  • The City would like to clarify some of the statements made by the Petitioner’s Committee:

1)      “The Butler donation was designed in part to assure the protection and preservation of the Parkside House”.

Fact: According to Randel Butler himself, one of two surviving sons of donors Bob and Pearl Butler, the house was “inconsequential” to the donation of the land. Their parents’ intent, according to Randel and his brother Garry, was to create a giant playground/park for generations of small children to enjoy in West Plains.

2)      “When the time arrived for grant applications identified by the Friends group, the City inexplicably declined to participate, stated a preference to demolish rather than restore Parkside House, and established an arbitrary deadline for the Friends group to present an acceptable alternative.”

Fact: The City of West Plains only declined to participate because the Friends group, when asked, indicated they could not provide the match required for the grant, nor did the Friends group have a plan to sustain the operations of their proposed Discovery Center. Because of the group’s inability to guarantee any sort of funding for the match, and the lack of a viable business plan to sustain the Center’s operations, the City declined the request.

The City of West Plains passed Ordinance 1009 on Dec. 22, 2014, authorizing the Friends of Parkside to make improvements on the House with an initial term, first term, second term and third term. The initial term included six months for a licensed architect to complete a study, and the first term gave the Friends group 2 ½ years to obtain 60 percent of costs needed for repairs to the House. The second term gave the group 2 ½ years to complete the work, and if completed a third term would give the group a 60 year lease. The first term was never completed by the Friends of Parkside group, prompting the City Council in 2018 to solicit proposals for the future use of the park.

The City encourages every voter to read the proposed ordinance and advisory opinions which are available at City Hall, 1910 Holiday Lane or online, www.westplains.net.

 

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