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

4)       City of WP Children’s Park Proposal

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.

Part 4

Editor’s Note: This information is provided by City of West Plains Finance Director Todd Harman.

On November 5, 2019, the citizens of West Plains, MO, are being asked to vote on whether or not to adopt the proposed Initiative Ordinance No. I-2019-01.  A major question has been what does that mean.  Below is a summary of what a yes and no vote means from a financial perspective.  All of this information was compiled from the documents referenced and publicly available sources.

What Does a Yes Vote Mean?

If you vote yes on this, you are voting to move forward with the park renovation plans proposed in the initiative petition.  The City encourages all voters to thoroughly read this proposed ordinance prior to voting.  In summary, this includes rehabilitating the Parkside House and building an all-inclusive playground, additional walking trails, and parking spaces.  With this option, the Parkside House would be rehabilitated however no splash pad would be built.  This comes at a total estimated cost of $1,178,194 made up from the following sources:

$    285,574 Capital Improvements and Transportation Sales Tax Receipts
$    264,600 In-Kind City Labor
$    200,000 Pledges from the Friends of Parkside
$    750,174 Total Local Funds Provided
$    428,000 LWCF Grant Funds (if approved)
$ 1,178,174 Total Project Costs

Per the proposed ordinance, this would make approximately $631,000 available for rehabilitation of the Parkside House and approximately $547,000 available for building an all-inclusive playground, additional walking trails, and parking spaces.  No estimated on-going maintenance and operational costs were provided for within the proposed ordinance.

In evaluating this option, funding comes from the City of West Plains taxpayers, privately pledged funds, and grant funds.  The City has concerns about the collectability of the pledges mentioned above and the proposed ordinance provides no contingency for uncollectible pledges.  The City learned that the Friends of Parkside’s tax-exempt status was revoked by the Internal Revenue Service on May 15, 2018 and the City is unaware if the Friends of Parkside have reinstated their tax-exempt status.  Without that tax-exempt status, pledges would no longer be tax-deductible for the donors and may limit the collectability of those pledged funds.  The City also has concerns whether approximately $631,000 will cover the Parkside House rehabilitation.  With these concerns, there is the risk that any funding shortfalls will become costs needing paid with additional taxpayer dollars.    Given that this option already is estimated to cost approximately $140,000 more than the City’s option below, the voters need to evaluate if the concerns mentioned above are risks they are willing to accept as taxpayers within the City of West Plains.

What Does a No Vote Mean?

If you vote no on this, you are voting to stop the park renovation plans proposed in the initiative petition.  With this option, the City would be able to move forward with their own plan.  The City encourages all voters to thoroughly read the “Proposal and Project Scope: Butler Children’s Park – All Inclusive Playground” prior to voting.  In summary, this includes removing the Parkside House and building/rehabilitating an all-inclusive playground, splash pad, additional walking trails, parking spaces, workout zone, picnic grilling area, fall protection, and fencing.  With this option, the Parkside House would be removed, however a splash pad would also be built.  The splash pad would be free-of-charge for our citizens to enjoy similar to all other park equipment at Butler Children’s Park.  This comes at a total estimated cost of $1,033,734 made up from the following sources:

$    239,634 Capital Improvements and Transportation Sales Tax Receipts
$    366,100 In-Kind City Labor
$    605,734 Total Local Funds Provided
$    428,000 LWCF Grant Funds (if approved)
$ 1,033,734 Total Project Costs

 

In evaluating this option, funding comes from the City of West Plains taxpayers and grant funds.  A breakdown of the funding as proposed is:

Phase I
Description Proposal Pg.   City Forces City Funds Grant Funds Total
Remove Parkside House 6          16,600          72,573                 –          89,173
Construct Splash Pad 6          30,000          53,193                 –          83,193
Rehab Fence 6            5,000            1,000                 –            6,000
Total 6            51,600        126,766                 –          178,366
Phase II
Description Proposal Pg.   City Forces City Funds Grant Funds Total
Construct New Walking Trail 8        150,000          20,980                 –        170,980
Construct All Inclusive Playground 8          33,000          46,000        250,000        329,000
Total 8          183,000          66,980        250,000        499,980
Phase III
Description     City Forces City Funds Grant Funds Total
Construct Additional Parking Spaces 10          31,500          15,888                 –          47,388
Construct Workout Zone 10          20,000                 –          83,000        103,000
Resurface Fall Protection 10          60,000          30,000          90,000        180,000
Construct New Picnic Grill Area 10          20,000                 –            5,000          25,000
Total 10          131,500          45,888        178,000        355,388
Project Total
Description   City Forces City Funds Grant Funds Total
Project Total (Phase I, II, and III)          366,100        239,634        428,000     1,033,734

 

On-going maintenance and operational costs associated with this proposal are estimated to be minimal at approximately $7,000 – $8,000 per year for maintenance of the equipment and utilities associated with the splash pad.  These costs will be incorporated into the Parks Department annual operating budget.  Given that the splash pad is unique to this option, the voters need to evaluate if the costs and risks associated with maintaining and operating a splash pad are risks they are willing to accept as taxpayers within the City of West Plains.

Summary

Please feel free to reach out to myself or my staff with any questions you may have.  Copies of the proposed initiative ordinance, the City’s proposed plan for the park, the advisory legal opinion, and the advisory financial opinion at available for your review at City Hall, 1910 Holiday Lane, West Plains, MO and on the City website at http://www.westplains.net .

November 5: Election Day; City Encourages all to Vote

Election Day is quickly approaching and citizens of the City of West Plains will have the opportunity to vote in regards to the Parkside House question. The ballot language reads, Shall the City of West Plains (the “City”) adopt the proposed Initiative Ordinance No. I-2019-01 as an ordinance of the City? To keep from any confusion we wanted to take the time to 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 is encouraging all citizens to vote on Tuesday, November 5. Polling locations are Howell #1—First Church of God, Howell #2—National Guard Armory, Howell #3—West Plains Public Library and Howell #4—West Plains Civic Center. Dry Creek voters residing inside the city limits will vote at First Church of God this time only. For polling location questions contact the Howell County Clerk’s Office at 256-2591. Absentee ballots are available until 5 p.m. on Monday, November 4, with hours 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday, November 2. The City also would like to encourage every voter to read the proposed ordinance and advisory opinions which are available at City Hall, 1910 Holiday Lane and online, www.westplains.net.

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