Paula Fitzgerald, Longmont's Parks development manager, and Dan Wolford, the city's open space manager, have done an incredible job with the St. Vrain Greenway and securing open space for trails. They truly are an asset to our community. However, the financial climate statewide and locally has changed. It might be time to rethink lottery funds. We may be able to continue to add city parks and recreation centers but incorporate other uses as well.
Libraries have increasingly become sources for education. The demand for computers, online classes and informative speakers is at an all-time high. Community surveys consistently have requests for branch libraries or alternative book drop off sites. Both of these requests are expensive but might be achieved by using CTF (Conservation Trust Funds) in conjunction with parks. Consider for example, expanding the existing or a new recreation center to include a branch library. The equipment purchased with the funds (computers, fax machines, copiers, etc) could be shared and, according to the Times-Call article on the lottery funds survey, the maintenance of the building might be financed through the CTF.
Another shared use of the lottery funds could be with our school district. It is obvious with the failure of 103 that raising taxes for education is a moot point. There's probably not much hope for passing a bond issue for capital improvement either. But, funded partially by the Colorado Lottery system, there is Public School Capital Construction Assistance Program (i.e., "BEST" Program). The Colorado Joint Budget committee reported, for the fiscal year 2009-2010, the revenue available for BEST to allocate was $35,331,462. The revenue under the BEST program must be requested through a grant process, may require local matching funds and is awarded in August before the start of the school year. According to Carolyn Kampman, chief legislative analyst for the Joint Budget Committee, the BEST funds are statutorily prioritized for projects that will address safety hazards or health concerns at existing school facilities. This does not mean that a grant cannot be written for other school construction needs. Capital projects include new schools, major renovations, additions and smaller projects including roof repair/replacement, boiler replacements, fire alarms, etc. St. Vrain Valley school district has a request in for matching funds to remove asbestos. For more information, visit the CDE (Colorado Department of Education) website: cde.state.co.us/cdefinance/CapConstBEST.htm. Even though the BEST program is not funded through the CTF, it does use lottery monies.
Consider building a new school with a shared park/playground purchased through the CTF. According to the Department of Local Affairs website (colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/DOLA-Main/CBON/1251591555779#capimprove), playground equipment, salaries and maintenance fall under the CTF guidelines. If the land purchased through CTF was large enough to include a recreation center with a branch library included and a shared park/playground for a new school, we could stretch the funds to address three areas.
It is worth considering these options when filling out the CTF survey. Parks and recreation is one of the top priorities along with libraries and education when businesses look to expand or relocate. The future of Longmont and how we use these funds is essential to our quality of life.
Joan Peck has been a Longmont resident for 35 years.