LINCOLN CITY — During its regular meeting Monday, the Lincoln City City Council voted 3-2 to approve a resolution to transfer $500,000 from the city’s General Fund to the Parks Operations Fund to “get the balling rolling” on establishing a sustainable method of funding for the city’s parks and recreation department.
The money will go into an endowment fund for the parks and recreation department and, pending further discussion by the council, will go toward establishing a foundation for the department or another funding project.
While most of the council was in favor of creating a foundation, some members argued transferring funds before setting more groundwork for the foundation might be inappropriate.
The resolution was created after a discussion during the council’s April 12 meeting, where it reviewed city goals for 2021 and addressed issues with the parks and recreation department being unable to meet its self-funding goals over the last year under the pandemic.
The seed money is meant to be the first step in creating a sustainable source of money for the department to help consistently fund it even after the pandemic ends.
Lincoln City Finance Director Debbie Bridges said setting the money aside in this manner would put it in a position where it wouldn’t be generating much additional money for the city and noted she was not present for most of the discussion that occurred during the prior meeting that led to the resolution’s creation. Bridges advised there might be more efficient options the council could consider before proceeding.
Dissenting councilors Rick Mark and Anne Marie Skinner agreed that the parks and recreation department is in need of a consistent source of funding, but they argued that simply putting an amount of money this size aside with no established plan and no consideration of other major budget expenses was inappropriate.
“This half a million is to go into a foundation, which is us making the decision to make a bank account essentially, and set aside money in a place that the finance manager says isn’t going to earn a lot of money,” Mark said. “The money might just be better spent on parks. I’m all for the effort to create a foundation, but I’m not sure if the city should be providing such a large sum of seed money.”
Mark cited several other recent and expensive city projects needing consideration, such as dredging canals and renovating city fire hydrants. He argued moving $500,000 for an unplanned project didn’t seem wise at this time.
Skinner argued approving the transfer might be “putting the cart before the horse,” noting she didn’t know enough about how a foundation would function to support the decision.
Councilor Mitch Parsons argued in favor of the transfer, noting that the amount of money was negotiable, and the $500,000 sum was proposed to help get people’s attention about the department’s funding issues. Parsons said transferring the funds now was intended to get the ball rolling on a long-term solution.
“The point is to move however much is needed to eventually seed this and make it a line item,” Parsons said. “As a government, we tend to talk a lot and not do anything. The point was to make this an item we have to do something with. Some of the things (Mark) listed are things we keep putting onto our park department. They maintain our beach access for example. If we keep adding those projects, we’re going to need to come up with a way to fund them.”
Parsons also said the city will be receiving many sources of funding it hadn’t expected this budget year, such as $7-8 million from the federal government in American Rescue Plan Act funds, which would put the city in a better position to afford the investment.
Parsons noted that no matter what the council decided, it would likely need to establish multiple sources of funding for the department in the future.
Council President Judy Casper noted that while the $500,000 has been transferred, that doesn’t mean it needs to be spent, and the funds can be relocated later if necessary, or if alternative sources of funding are found to replace it.
The council plans to review options for creating a foundation during its second meeting in May and will also consider other methods of funding the parks and recreation department in the future, such as a food and beverage tax.
Prior to the discussion, the council also approved a resolution to transfer $150,000 to city administration for materials and services for an October 2020 settlement.
Other agenda items included:
• The council received a report on the Devils Lake canals. According to City Engineer Stephanie Reid, the canals are owned partly by the city and partly by the county, and the area has been historically prone to flooding due to its proximity to the lake.
The Devils Lake Water Treatment District is planning to dredge the lake soon to remove sediment, which should help lake flow but likely won’t alleviate the flooding issues. Reid also said due to sediment and overgrown vegetation, the canals are hard to access, unsuitable for recreation and a poor habitat for aquatic wildlife.
• Jeremy Cogdill gave a presentation regarding the change of use of city right-of-way along Northwest Fifth Court to favor pedestrian and bicycle use. The council denied the proposal in favor of trying to improve the street to meet city standards for vehicles.
• The council approved the creation of a low pressure sewer local improvement district for Northeast 14th Street.
• The council approved a resolution allowing additional properties in Lincoln City to be used for emergency housing for victims of the Echo Mountain Complex fire. The resolution also extends the previous resolution an additional year, to September 2022.
• Interim City Manager Lila Bradley provided a report for the city’s two bridge rehabilitation projects started in 2016. The council previously expressed a desire to beautify the project, which would require approval from the Oregon Department of Transportation.