Mesa parks bond plan grows $5M, now at $70M - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa parks bond plan grows $5M, now at $70M

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Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 7:30 am | Updated: 10:15 am, Fri Jun 29, 2012.

A parks bond package heading to Mesa voters this November has grown by $5 million to boost the number of improvements the city can make to its aging parks.

The new $70 million tab for parks investment came about after residents told parks officials they wanted more upgrades than what the city shared with them in an initial proposal, said Marc Heirshberg, parks director.

While the bonds would fund new parks, trails and renovations, Mesa plans to spend all of the additional $5 million on modernizing tired parks.

The city identified $44 million in needs at existing parks, and the initial plan would have only funded 16 percent of that, Heirshberg said. The larger bond amount will fund 27 percent.

That’s “still leaving us a long way from addressing all the needs that are out there,” Heirshberg said.

The City Council has called for a limited parks improvement plan, knowing the Mesa Unified School District is planning a $230 million bond in November.

The renovations will include shade structures, improving irrigation systems and — depending on what residents want at their neighborhood park — adding or reducing turf. Mesa would replace some playgrounds, which are 13 years old on average. One of the city’s 57 playgrounds is 27 years old.

Mesa’s City Council has discussed parks improvements for months, and agreed with Heirshberg on Monday to move forward with his latest proposal. The council must decide on July 2 whether to place the bonds on the November ballot. The bonds would cost the owner of an average home, which has an assessed valuation of about $122,000, $24.84 a year.

Mesa had identified $131 million in needed park improvements. The city got feedback from residents this spring at a number of public meetings and online, and then focused on placing the most in-demand items in the bond proposal.

Other items include:

• $5.5 million on bike and pedestrian paths.

• $7.2 million for developing city-owned vacant land into parks in east Mesa.

• $8.7 million to convert former public school facilities in west Mesa into parks.

• $10.7 million to purchase the historic Buckhorn Baths, and fund improvements at Monterey Park and a downtown urban plaza.

• $37.8 million to renovate parks across Mesa. This includes Pioneer and Riverview parks, and a museum in the former federal building in downtown. Also, the city would rebuild the pool at Taylor Junior High School as a regional aquatics center. The city had planned to close the Taylor pool and build a regional center at Mesa High School, but the school district recently declined to offer the Mesa High site.

The city’s renovation plans are only conceptual, Heirshberg said. Parks officials will continue to meet with neighborhoods to share plans and get feedback as the improvements are made. If voters approve the bonds, the city expects to complete the work in about four years.

Mayor Scott Smith said he believes it’s important the projects were largely identified by residents through what he called a community-driven process.

“These are not luxuries,” Smith said. “These are necessities if we’re going to build a great community.”

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