Tualatin residents will soon be paying a little more on their monthly utility bill to fund the maintenance of aging parks facilities.
The Tualatin City Council approved adding a $5 per month parks utility fee to residents’ monthly bills at their April 26 meeting, following months of discussion over how to best address a large backlog of work needed to bring city parks facilities into a better state of repair.
“I think we’re in a place we don’t want to be in with deferred maintenance and I don’t think it’s responsible not to take care of our assets from an ownership perspective,” Councilor Bridget Brooks said at an April 12 meeting.
The new fee will not be imposed until July, and money raised will be dedicated to repairing some of the City’s oldest and most run-down parks facilities.
“The parks system is 25 to 30 years old, the majority of it is at this point,” said Rich Mueller, the City’s Parks and Recreation Manager. “There isn’t a dedicated fund for this renovation or these repairs and replacements.”
Discussion over the state of the City’s parks has been ongoing. A system-wide assessment was carried out in 2019 and funding options for maintenance and repair were discussed through 2020. The City estimates it could cost upward of $9.5 million just to fix the highest priority issues, and around $19.6 million in total to bring all its parks up to what it considers an acceptable standard.
The $5 per month fee, however, would only raise an estimated $676,000 annually. This makes it likely the Council will consider asking local voters to approve a local option levy or a bond measure in the future to pay for additional work.
Among the desired improvements are smart irrigation systems, park site planning, sports court resurfacing, Browns Ferry Center ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements, field and light replacements at Tualatin High School, a replacement for the Browns Ferry Bridge, concrete surface replacement at Tualatin Commons, a new boat launch at Tualatin Community Park and many more.
Councilor Christen Sacco noted that when she was a young mother at 19-years-old, public parks proved to be a godsend for her and her children.
“These are big assets for these communities,” Sacco said. “And I think it’s very important for those community members to have these spaces.”