New Fresno park groundbreaking raises funding questions

FRESNO, Calif.

"Oh, I love it. I really love it, because it's going to be clean and it will be a place for our grandchildren to play." Jean said.

As planned, the four acre park will feature a splash area for kids and a dog park for pet owners.

Outgoing City Council Member Henry T. Perea wanted to leave this park as a legacy to his eight years in office. "When I first got into office one of the things I realized, one of the things I heard most from my constituents was the lack of park space."

To deal with the problem, three years ago the city sold a $40 million parks bond. It's been used mostly to pay for improvements to existing parks. In a late night session November 18th, the city council voted to spend the last chunk of that bond money.

$1.2 million would go for the Martin Rey Reilly Park, about a million would go to a new park in northwest Fresno, and $8 hundred thousand would be spent to make the yearly payment on the park bond.

City Council President Larry Westerlund noted the city cannot afford to maintain the parks it already has. Instead of opening new parks now he wanted all of the $3 million to be used on paying the existing debt. "We decided last week to in effect max out our credit card to build two parks we really can't afford and I just cannot support that."

The park bond was supposed to be paid by fees from developers building new neighborhoods. But with new construction nearly at a standstill the city could be digging into its general fund, which pays for the police and fire department and other basic city services, to pay the park bond.

City Manager Mark Scott has assured Perea, who's leaving to become a member of the State Assembly, the money will be there. "The city administration is confident not only will we be able to build it but we will be able to maintain it." Perea said.

Construction of Martin Ray Reilly Park is scheduled to being next spring.

Maintaining the park may be left up to the neighborhood. Residents are likely to be asked to approve a park district, and pay additional taxes to pay for mowing and trimming.

The parks namesake, Martin Ray Reilly, was a neighborhood resident. His family sold the city some of the land for the park.

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