A proposed $244,000 contract to evaluate needs in the City’s parks was held by City Council at its Sept. 22 meeting. The hold came at the request of Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, who said that the City already  knew of immediate projects and the money might be better spent on those improvements than on a consulting report.

Earlier in the evening, the members of the Administration and Public Works Committee passed the proposal unanimously. A letter from resident Mike Vasilko raising several questions about the contract sparked limited discussion, but none that appeared likely to derail the measure.

The staff memo proposing the near $250,000 consulting project came from the Public Works department, not the Parks and Recreation division. Per the memo, the City’s 2001 Parks Strategic Plan resulted in “an extensive list of improvements … touching on approximately half of the City’s properties.” But the plan has become outdated. “[A]s a result of changing field conditions and evolving community needs, re-evaluation of the park system, including the smaller field houses, is needed at this time,” the memo said.

According to the memo, a re-evaluation by professional consultants with expertise in landscape architecture, engineering and parks/facilities operations is necessary to provide staff with “a framework for effective programming and implementation of capital improvements over the coming decade.” The framework would include “a formalized set of operations and maintenance procedures documented in a manual” that would “help staff to best integrate available resources as well as relay daily operations to the larger capital process,” according to the memo.

When the matter arrived at City Council, Ald. Wilson asked that it be removed from the consent agenda. “For the money we are talking about,” he said, “there are things that we know we need to do. I move we send this back to committee to decide whether to use this money for actual improvements and not a ‘study.’”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested a hold instead, saying, “You do not have the votes” necessary to send it back to committee. A hold requires only a motion and a second. Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, seconded Ald. Wilson’s motion.

The proposal will now be held for Council to determine whether $244,000 is better spent on upgrades to known deteriorating park amenities or a consultant’s study.