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Park district seeks public input on 2014 budget

By SUSAN RIEMER
Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber Reporter
October 2, 2013 · Updated 2:52 PM
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Update:

The Vashon Park District meeting has been changed to 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Ober Park. The public is still welcome to contribute input on the district's 2014 budget.

 

Vashon Park District commissioners will take feedback from islanders about the agency’s 2014 budget, now in the planning stages, as part of its regularly scheduled public meeting next week.

Commissioners John Hopkins and Lu-Ann Branch are spearheading efforts to publicize the meeting, Branch said, and are reaching out to islanders who may wish to contribute their opinions either at the meeting or through an online survey, still being developed.

“Anybody can show up and provide input on where the park district should put its priorities,” she said about next week’s meeting.

She added that such an approach has not been tried before.

“People like to be asked,” Branch said. “We’re asking.”

The board established this time for public comment at the end of August. At a public meeting then, Hopkins and Branch, who are both running for reelection, discussed their interest in holding a special budget meeting before the board began its budget process in September. Some board members voiced dissenting views on holding such a meeting, and chair Joe Wald suggested using the first meeting in October as a possible compromise solution. Commissioner Bill Ameling tasked Hopkins and Branch with publicizing the meeting.

Joe Wubbold, the president of the Keeper’s of Point Robinson and a frequent critic of the district in recent years, said he has been encouraging people to attend.

“It’s important that these people come and speak up and get on the record,” he said.

He noted that at least two of the candidates for park district commissioner seats will be at the meeting, and he believes it is important for board members and candidates to hear from the public with an election coming in November.

“I want as many people as we can stuff into the cattle pen as I can get,” he said, making a reference to the small meeting room and crowded conditions at the last three public meetings. “You bet I want them to be there.”

For their part, Branch said she and Hopkins are reaching out to park user groups, turning to VashonAll and the press as the meeting date approaches.

As of last week, park district General Manager Elaine Ott said she had not yet been asked to make a special budget presentation at the meeting. She did say, however, that while the district does have certain fixed costs, there is room for public input in a wide range of budget areas, including maintenance, lodging and programming.

With the help of islander CC Stone, Branch and Hopkins are in the midst of creating an online survey to gather further information from the public. Both she and Hopkins wanted another outreach too, Branch said.

“My contention is that people respond in different ways,” she said. “The survey is another mechanism to find out where we should be putti gour efforts and our money.”

Survey responders, Branch said, will be able to provide opinions about budget priorities as well as other issues at the park district.

The survey includes questions on which parks people use, how often they use them, if the maintenance levels are satisfactory, if they have suggestions and if they would be willing to offer feedback in the future.

“I would like to get a better sense of what the public sees as priorities and where we should go,” she said.

The survey, which Branch said she hopes the board will approve Oct. 8, will be available online as soon as Oct. 10, and she hopes many will fill it out.

“We’d love to get 1,000 responses,” she said.

Branch added that she hopes survey responses will be available in time for the park district’s Oct. 22 meeting.

The park district meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Ober Park.


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