By Sean Barron
Despite revenue losses totaling nearly $414,000, Mill Creek MetroParks commissioners are forging ahead on a variety of improvements and projects they say no longer can be ignored.
“It’s more a destination for families than just a playground,” Dennis Miller, Mill Creek MetroParks’ executive director, said after a special meeting Saturday in Pioneer Pavilion to approve an $11.9 million operating budget for 2013.
Miller was referring to the main portion of the Wick Recreation Area, which will entail completing several playgrounds as well as electrical work and plantings. Commissioners set aside $250,000 for that project.
Miller expressed concern that delaying needed work throughout the park will escalate the costs and time to complete the projects at a time of shrinking revenue. For example, $85,000 was allocated for major repairs to the Ford Nature Center, which for years has had a leaking, flat roof and rotted wood in several areas, as well as the need for new windows, drywall and dormers.
Other top priorities for the park this year include infrastructure upgrades to numerous facilities, such as electrical work, new roofs and exterior repairs, he noted.
Losses of property-tax revenue combined with recent $95,000 local-government cuts have contributed to the park’s having to operate on a tight budget, noted Kevin W. Smith, administrative-services director and treasurer.
To offset some of the reductions and balance the budget, employee wages and salaries were cut $258,000 for this year partly through attrition, and use of part-time instead of full-time workers whenever possible, Smith explained.
In addition, he said, funding for capital improvements was reduced by $237,000 over 2012.
Smith said he hopes to dip into the park’s $1.9 million replacement-reserve fund, which came from money generated by the Clinton gas-well reserves installed in the 1980s.
Pointing out how tight funding likely will be for 2013, Smith predicted Pioneer Pavilion rentals for this year will bring in about $22,000, yet simply replacing the pavilion’s 20-year-old roof is estimated at $25,000.
Smith also noted that commissioners plan to place an operating levy on the May 2014 primary ballot, though he said it’s too early to mention possible millage.