April 22, 2014

Fort Worth bond proposals for parks and libraries deserve voter approval

Two propositions provide for needed improvements in key service areas.

Fort Worth residents will have the chance to vote on the city’s $292 million bond package in a May 10 election. Early voting starts Monday.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board has examined the seven propositions in the bond package in order to make recommendations to readers before they cast their ballots. Today we look at two of them.

Proposition 2

In times of thin city budgets, among the first things to be cut is funding for parks. But under the May 10 bond proposal, that area of city service fares rather well. There would be an infusion of $31.4 million for parks, recreation and community center improvements.

Last spring, when City Council members toured the western portion of the city, Councilman Dennis Shingleton made sure their restroom break was at the aging Como Community Center, which they found in agonizing disrepair — cracked walls, buckling floors and gaping door jambs that provided grand entryways for rats.

If Proposition 2 is approved, $5.3 million would be spent to demolish the cramped and deteriorating facility, acquire land and build a new center to accommodate youth and adult programming, fitness facilities and meeting space.

Two other aging centers, Eugene McCray in Stop Six and Handley-Meadowbrook on the east side, would be expanded.

The proposal, which represents 11 percent of the total bond package, also calls for additional athletic fields and supporting infrastructure throughout the city, including development of a competition-level ball field athletic complex at Northwest Community Park.

There would be improvements and added amenities to several community parks and centers, as well as upgraded parking areas and security lighting.

Sixteen parks citywide would receive new playground equipment.

The McLeland Tennis Center would get major renovation of the outdoor court, and modifications would insure accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Other substantial projects under this proposition call for $1.5 million in rehabilitation design for the historic Heritage Park downtown, which has been closed since 2007, to address facility structural and utility needs; $2.5 million for park erosion repair at three existing parks; $1.9 million for expansion of the Trinity trail system, including new trails from Quanah Parker Park on the east side to Arlington’s trail system; and $2 million for upgrades of Rockwood Golf Course on the north side.

The bond issue by no means addresses all of the park and recreation needs of the city, but it’s a good start.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends voting for Proposition 2 in the Fort Worth bond election.

Proposition 3

The other city service that is usually on the chopping block during a budget crunch is the library.

Again, the Fort Worth Library system, while never having enough money for all the services it would like to provide, is not slighted in the bond proposal.

Under this proposition, $12.6 million (4 percent of the total bond proposal) would be authorized to construct and equip two new facilities, one on the east side to address the increasing needs there, and a new branch in the fast-growing far north Fort Worth area.

The Eastside Library, to be located in the vicinity of Oakland Boulevard and Lancaster Avenue, would cost $3.2 million, and the new north branch would have a price tag of $9.1 million.

City officials say the far north facility also would house a municipal court kiosk equipped with a computer station for video conferences, fine and fee payment and other court services.

Because bond proposals include a percentage of the total package — 2 percent in the case of libraries — for public art, Proposition 3 would allocate $248,000 for art projects for the two facilities.

The Star-Telegram Editorial Board recommends voting for Proposition 3 in the Fort Worth bond election.

Coming Thursday: Proposals to finance fire safety and municipal court improvements.

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