Maxwell Parks and Rec planning for the future

The Maxwell Parks and Recreation District’s town hall meeting last Saturday received virtually no attendance, not an uncommon sight at government meetings in the west Colusa County community, but MPR officials take the lack of questions or concerns as a positive sign that the district is headed in the right direction.

The Maxwell Auxiliary Committee hosted the meeting of the district’s ad hoc committee, comprised of President Kyle Miller and Treasurer Randy Wilkins, who along with consultant David Swartz, reviewed the district’s Capital Improvement Plan, which could be finalized at the board’s next meeting, tentatively set for 5:30 PM on Sept. 24.

The long-range plan includes mostly upgrades to the town pool and improvements to turn the old Stage Lines building on Oak Street, currently in escrow, into a functioning community center that provides recreational, educational, and fitness and wellness opportunities for youth, adults and senior citizens, officials said.

“We put together a listing based on feedback from the board members already of a capital improvement program,” Swartz said. “It is, in my opinion, just a wish list.”

The Capital Improvement Plan also includes a possible park on unsecured railroad property or possibly outfitting a neighborhood park elsewhere, and an income study.

MRP officials did not receive input from the community suggesting anything be removed from the long-term plan, but they will add, at the community’s request, an electronic message board, and staffing the community center with a general manager.

Swartz said the $600,000 Capital Improvement Plan is a living document that could be modified by the board at anytime, because it serves as a 10-to-20-year planning guide rather than a funding guide.

“The board can add and subtract items at will,” he said. “It’s just a starting point.”
The plan, however, will become part of Swartz’s engineer’s report, which will be used by the board to contemplate a Proposition 218 ballot measure to increase the district’s assessments, which no longer keep pace with current programs, nor allows the district to maintain its facilities.

“We’ve started the last five budget years with a deficit,” Wilkins said.

Swartz said the MPR board would have to prioritize what projects are the most important to function, in order to develop an operating and capital improvement budget, because they are unlikely to increase the assessment enough to cover the majority of the projects in a short period of time.

“That is not unique,” Swartz said. “An assessment, in the market place, is not a huge endeavor.”

Although the board has not yet determined how much they plan to ask Maxwell property owners to consider, Wilkins said a starting point might be to consider the current rates adjusted to inflation, or $34.50 a year for parcels with a dwelling or 16 cents an acre for parcels without a dwelling.

“If you look at it in today’s dollars, that is what they agreed to pay back in 1986,” Wilkins said.

Swartz said the first step in proposing a new rate would be to determine what the district needs to operate without a deficit, and project that in the future, so that they do not have to go through the Proposition 218 process often.

“That (operating in the black) is going to be the most important, because without that, you don’t have a district,” Swartz said. “That alone would generate an increase on property.”
The next step would be to incorporate projects or programs the community would be able to have on an ongoing basis rather that allowing the assessments to collect for a number of years just to do one project at a time, he said.

While Arbuckle property owners assess themselves $85 a year per parcel to operate and maintain parks and programs, Miller said he does not expect the MPR board to consider anything close to that amount.

The goal, he said, is to select an amount property owners agree to that would allow Maxwell Parks and Recreation District to provide programs that benefit the community.

Maxwell resident Bridgett Azevedo, who earlier had concerns about the process, said she was now more confortable with the Capital Improvement Plan, but also encouraged the board to seek out grant funding, even if they required matching funds.

“I think the community would still be supportive,” she said.