Council approves spending $10,800 for Sankey Park concept plan

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council voted 3-2 to contract with the University of Oregon Community Planning Workshop for $10,800 to develop a concept plan for Sankey Park.

The council split over whether the city ought to spend money to find out how to develop the park or simply spend the money in the parks system. Voting yes were councilors Jeff Goodwin, Dave Trask and Greg Mahler. Ryan Underwood and James Goble voted no.

The city completed a similar process for Strawberry Park last year. During that process, the Community Planning Workshop, which includes Oregon staff and students, held an open house at Strawberry Park to hear what members of the public wanted to see in that park.

After developing alternative drawings with different features, the workshop presented them to the community during its Movies in the Park series held at Sankey Park. Members of the public were invited to vote for their favorite features on the three drawings.

From that, the workshop developed a master plan for Strawberry Park, including detailed drawings and cost estimates. The 2016-17 city budget adopted by the council last week includes funding for the initial stages of development at Strawberry Park.

Under this contract, the workshop will move forward with a similar process for Sankey Park.

The Community Planning Workshop also completed a Park system master plan and capital improvement plan in 2013.

The council had considered the contract earlier this month but sent it to the Parks Board for discussion and a recommendation. The Parks Board did not return a recommendation after board members walked out the Parks Board over other matters.

The concept plan returned to the council during its regular meeting on June 28.

Underwood said he thought the Parks Board had already looked at this in November.

Board Chairwoman Jane Hazen, whom the council removed from the board during its June 28 meeting, told the council that in the past year, the board has had a quorum only once, in January.

She told the council that it wasn’t in the minutes for that meeting.

Without a quorum in November, the board could not make a formal recommendation for the plan.

“I think I know what they’re going to recommend,” said Trask.

Three board members, Angela Clegg, Nancy Patton and Mariann Biteman, were at the council meeting and told the council they approved of using the Community Planning Workshop to develop the concept plan.

Goble said that the comments he has been hearing about it were about 50 percent for and 50 percent against. He thought the council needed dramatically more community input.

Trask said the open house at Strawberry Park had a lot of people, and he was impressed with the project.

Underwood asked what’s happened at Strawberry Park since then.

The council has funds dedicated to the park this year, said Goodwin, who had argued unsuccessfully for a larger allocation to Strawberry Park projects during the city’s budget sessions.

“I certainly want to see money go into the parks,” Goodwin said. If the city is going to spend $10,000 on a plan and never do anything with it, he is not in favor of it, but “I don’t think that’s what this council’s about.”

“We can’t make our parks usable on our own?” Goble asked.

Mahler said he’s heard mixed reactions to the proposal. He indicated that he was leaning toward Goble, Underwood and Goodwin’s position and using the money in the parks instead of for a plan.

Sankey Park is the highest priority, Mahler said. “It’s our primary park that we need to focus on,” Mahler said. By comparison, Strawberry should be on the back burner.

Strawberry was a blank slate, Goodwin said, so it made sense to ask professionals what the city ought to do at that park, but the city could figure out what to do at Sankey.

He can see both sides of the argument, Goodwin said. The project could get the public thinking more about the park and be even more valuable than the actual plan.

It used to be a nicer park, Goodwin said, but Sankey Park has a number of issues, from people sleeping there and smoking pot to having sex in the park. For that reason, he would prefer to focus on Strawberry Park.

“We can’t just give up on a park because we have a problem,” Mahler said.

It’s a good use of funds if the council decides to move forward with the concept plan, Goodwin said.

Public Works Director Mike Adams said that the plans help the city operationally as they move forward with plans to improve the parks.

By paying the University of Oregon, the community gets professionals to come in and find out what the community wants in its parks through surveys and public participation, Adams said.

“I like the idea,” Goodwin said. “It’ll bring hype. I really think it’s about taking back this park.”

In other business, the council adopted the 2016-17 budget 5-0 although Goodwin said he continues to have problems with the document. He wanted to see more funding in parks and law enforcement and voted against approving the budget at the Budget Committee level earlier this year.