Parks and Recreation Director Angie Whisnant reviewed the Parks Master Plan information with council members during the Nov. 4 council meeting. Elliot Barth, a University of Florida student studying Landscape Architecture, took on the project.
With the coordination of the previous Parks and Recreation Director Mike Walker, Barth gathered information from Brooksville’s citizens at four public meetings. Whisnant summarized the results of those meetings.
The public indicated the projects and activities that interested them the most. A dog park and splash park topped the list of items of interest and items where money should be spent.
After discussion, council directed the Comprehensive Improvement Plan (CIP) committee to review the splash park idea for inclusion into the five-year plan. Grant funding is more likely to be allocated to projects on the five year plan.
During public meetings, three other categories were also listed in order of importance to the public: playgrounds, additional multi-purpose fields/space/trails, and pavilions for picnic use/public restrooms.
Whisnant advised council members of grant funding that will become available in early 2020. The reimbursement grants have a value of $400,000. Whisnant characterized this as a “50/50 split,” still a considerable sum.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund becomes available in January. Funds are used for acquisition or redevelopment of property. Application for these funds is open from Jan. 13 to Jan. 31, 2020.
Funding from Recreational Trails Plan becomes available in February. The public is using what Whisnant described as “cart paths” or trails. She believes improving these trails would be an appropriate use of the funds. Whisnant did not have the dates for submission for this fund.
The Recreation Advisory Board, which has quarterly meetings, will convene in January, Whisnant said. Her goal is to have the substantial grant applications ready to submit before the deadlines. Funding could be included in the 2021 Capital Improvement Plan, (CIP) Whsnant said, but would not score as high as a project already in progress.
Council Member Robert Battista stated that a multi-use park would be more beneficial to the community as there seems to be fewer young people who participate in team sports. Tom Varn Park’s ball fields fill the need for team sports, he said, but there should be space for more leisurely activities.
Council Member Betty Erhard complimented Whisnart for identifying the two funding sources.
Vice Mayor Joe Bernardini was disappointed with the relatively low number of citizens who participated in the voting. He also said that he was aware of two votes to reopen the Quarry Golf Course, but that was not reflected in the results.
Bernardini said the city has a history of situations with low citizen turnout or participation. Informing and motivating citizens to become involved in giving input on “big ticket items” are important issues to resolve.
Battista mentioned the county’s plans to open a splash park in eastern Hernando County, as well as the plans for a park in Citrus County. Because there is some interest in reopening the golf course, he said, a dog park and splash park can be done without impacting the golf course.
Whisnant responded to Bernardini, saying that disc golf is being played in the park currently. If enough interest is generated, then applying for funds for the following year to improve the golf course is a possibility.
Including the projects into the CIP for the next few years may be a challenge, Kemerer said. Half of the funds could be requested from private companies or organizations, with the grant funds providing the difference. Whisnant said that the value of the land could be considered as part of the City’s contribution.
Bernardini suggested having a “shovel-ready” plan to present to the legislature, since they seem more likely to grant funds to those projects. The city has the land and could have the splash park designed so they would know the project cost.
Whisnant said that the application will recommend that at least a portion of the project should be part of the CIP. “I would never recommend building a project around a grant,” she said.
Bernardini suggested updating the CIP to include the splash park and increase the likelihood of the request being approved. Whisnant said that the application is points based.
Having the project included on the CIP is not required but would improve the amount of points awarded. Adding the splash park via a resolution would award points, but not as many as if the project had previously been part of the CIP.
City Manager Mark Kutney explained the three part plan that the CIP team developed and was approved by Council: develop a list of annual funding needs, establish a general five-year plan, and provide for the Comprehensive CIP for the planning department. Projects can be added to the five-year plan, Kutney said.
Battista made a motion to have the CIP Committee review the splash park as a potential project to be placed on the CIP five-year plan. Bernardini seconded the motion. The motion passed 5-0.
Whisnart will begin working on the application for the grants.
*Note: The discussion of Parks and Recreation Rules and Regulations was deferred to a future meeting. Bernardini recommended that the Parks Board review the Rules and Regulations.