Park Shade Structures, Who Should Pay?

Should the city provide shade structure of public park bleachers or should neighborhoods chip in?

Council member Wengay Newton asked earlier this year what it would take for the city to build a shade structure over the bleachers at Childs Park. 

On Dec. 13, city officials came back to the Budget Finance and Taxation Committee with numbers for not only Childs Park, but also all permanent bleacher structures in the city at a cost of more than $734,000. 

Clarence Scott, Leisure and Community Services Administrator, said organizations and neighborhoods should partner with the city to help provide the shade structures.

"We thought if council decided to fund a system wide project that the baseline for organizations to get in the queue would be to establish a policy that they would raise a minimum of $2,000," Scott said of what organizations would need to raise before the city would build a shade structure over their bleachers. "It gives them an opportunity to get some skin in the game.

"It is a very easy task to go through fundraising and raise $2,000," Scott added. "It helps us from an equity standpoint, helps establish an order of implementation."

According to the city, after the $2,000 is raised by the community organization the remaining money for the structure would come out of the Weeki Wachee fund. 

Newton said many organizations and neighborhoods couldn’t afford that money but still need shade from the sun. 

"Some of these organizations flourish more than others," Newton said.

Council chair Leslie Curran agreed. 

"I think we need another plan," Curran said. "I understand why you want to do this (but) ... I also know other groups cannot raise money. I also don’t agree all of (the money) has to come out of Weeki Wachee Fund."

Council members Charlie Gerdes and Bill Dudley said if organizations raise money for the structures they are more likely to take better care of them. 

"Having been a president and board member for a little league a long time, I would suggest that it is appropriate and I think you would get full cooperation that the leagues have some skin in the game," Gerdes said. 

"When the organization, families and community around the league have an investment of the property, they are better stewards," Gerdes added. "They care about how the park looks. If their kids had to knock on 10 doors to sell candy bars, they’d care about trash on the ground."

Newton said he does not know why his request for one shade structure at Childs Park turned into a citywide initiative.

"All I wanted was one shade structure. I appreciate staff's effort, but all I wanted was one," Newton said. 

Curran said the city just needs to slow down on this plan and look into funding and needs of the project. 

"We are taking one giant leap from what Newton asked for, to the whole thing for $700 and some thousand, which is a good chunk of the Weeki Wachee money," Curran said. "I think we need to slow down now."

The committee voted Thursday to review the money for shade structures in early 2013 to see if the projects could be put in the capital improvement plan. 



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