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October 22, 2018

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Commissioners divided over park construction

The County Commission has delayed building a fourth ballfield and roller hockey court at Desert Breeze Park because home builders were concerned about the use of neighborhood park construction funds for a regional park.

Instead, the board on Tuesday voted 5-0 to spend $1.5 million to finish construction of two neighborhood parks currently under development. Commissioners Myrna Williams and Lorraine Hunt were out of the chambers for the vote.

The board's action allocates $1.2 million for the valley's southwest to develop 13.56 acres near Kenny Guinn Middle School and $300,000 in upgrades at Paul Meyer Park. The board will revisit in two weeks the $768,000 allocation for Desert Breeze Park for a fourth lighted ballfield and lighted roller hockey court and playground.

All the parks are in Commissioner Erin Kenny's district. Kenny, who has made a crusade out of building parks, said she could wait two weeks.

"I am more than happy to hold it for two weeks in order to resolve any questions that members of the home building community may have," Kenny said.

Kenny, who is up for re-election next year, has 12 park openings scheduled between now and August 1998. The park construction in her district includes development of two new regional parks, including Desert Breeze, the new neighborhood park near Guinn and upgrades to eight existing neighborhood parks, including Paul Meyer Park in Spring Valley.

Conversely, park development in the faster-growing south-central region is limited to a 30-acre community park at Maryland Parkway and Wigwam Avenue.

Kenny said the park development activity has nothing to do with her re-election plans, but reflects her commitment to park construction for her constituents.

"Nobody else has dedicated themselves to this area in the same fashion that I have," Kenny said. "Myrna has really been concerned with roads, and has committed time and staff energy to putting new roads on top of the old roads in her district."

Also, she said, the park development in her district is proportional to the amount of housing activity in her district. And it provides a balance, she said, giving west valley residents regional parks and other recreational facilities that have existed in older neighborhoods for years.

"For the last number of years, most of the kids who play soccer have had to go to the Silver Bowl stadium," Kenny said. "There was very little space. We've not had a larger park, like Sunset Park. It was time the other side of the valley got represented."

Williams has long questioned the use of neighborhood park funds on regional parks, and has advocated smaller park districts to keep the money closer to the residents.

"There's supposed to be a nexus between the parks and the people paying for them," Williams said, "but park districts are so huge you're not necessarily going to get a park near your house."

Williams also said there's a disproportionate focus on building parks in the west valley.

"I hear concerns from developers all the time about how that money is being used," Williams said. "We have a big county and other areas that need attention. If they have the money, fine, but there should be a fair division of what areas they're working on."

Parks and Recreation Director Glenn Trowbridge pointed out several other projects are under development throughout the valley.

So far, most of the 270-acre Desert Breeze Park has been built with neighborhood park construction money by treating the first phase of development separately from the entire project.

"Myrna thinks money was misused at Desert Breeze," Trowbridge said.

Construction funds can be used on regional parks as long as they're used on things like ballfields and playgrounds, Trowbridge said, producing an April 21 letter from the county's attorney backing up that contention with a 1987 attorney general's opinion.

Besides, Kenny said, Desert Breeze is a neighborhood park.

"It's not really a regional park yet. That may take 20 years," Kenny said. "If it's not going to be a regional park for 20 years, and we're not allowed to spend any money on it, then it remains vacant."

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