Dillon Tribune - Wednesday, March 21, City hosts hearing tonight on establishing parks district ’

The Dillon City Council earlier this week took one small step toward establishing a parks district—but only after a long explanation on just how small a step it was— and how many more would have to follow.

And an even longer discussion on whether the city should even bother trying to set up a parks district.

Following a lengthy debate on the matter, the city council at its regular meeting last Wednesday voted unanimously in favor of “a resolution of intent of the city council of the City of Dillon setting date for hearing and providing notice for a hearing to create a special parks district named City Parks District #1 to allow maintenance, installation, repair, upkeep and operation of city parks in the City of Dillon.”

That hearing will take place today, Wednesday, March 21, starting at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 125 N. Idaho St. in downtown Dillon.

“There is a big long line of what we have to do. This is the first step,” explained Mayor Mike Klakken on setting up the public hearing, during the discussion on the matter at the March 7 council meeting.

“We will have then a public hearing...to take input. And the input is not to create a parks district. The input will be to set up another public hearing. So, there’s going to be two public hearings, and three or four resolutions that will come out of this,” added Klakken.

“And then on the next meeting on April 4, we’ll actually have the resolution of intent to create a parks district. When that one gets voted in, then what we’re gonna do is we have to advertise for another public hearing. That one has to be 60 days away....the public hearing for that second one, not this one, will be on June 20,” continued the mayor.

“So, just to inform everybody, we’re not trying to run this through. There’s a lot of steps to this still.”

According to Klakken, those steps will also include the mailing of a letter to every property owner in the parks district to gauge if there is enough support to continue moving forward with establishing a parks district with approximately the same boundaries as the City of Dillon itself.

As with the city’s lighting district, each property owner within the district would be assessed a specific amount every year—based in large part on how large an area his or her property covers—to pay toward bankrolling the annual costs of city parks.

Those park costs are currently paid out of the city’s general fund, which covers numerous other items in the budget, with the majority of it going to bankroll the salaries and benefits of city employees.

The possibility of setting up a parks district to finance the annual work and materials to sustain the city’s parks came out of discussions last summer on how to address a six-figure imbalance in the City of Dillon’s 2017–18 fiscal year budget.

“How this whole thing started is when we were going through the budget I was being hammered, saying that we were spending more than we had coming in. I got it down, we cut a bunch of stuff—a lot of that was for parks,” Klakken reminded the council at last week’s meeting.

“We got it down that we were spending about $130,000 more than we had coming in. It was discussed at that time that we do a parks district, or look into it.”

After looking further into it and hearing from members of the public at tonight’s hearing, if the city decides to keep going forward with setting up the parks district, the process will need to include an extensive public survey, according to the mayor.

“What I also have to do is send a letter to every property owner in this town, and on that I have to put a box saying they agree with it or they disagree with it,” continued Klakken.

“And if I get the letter back and they do not check that they agree or disagree, then I have to assume that it’s a disagree. If they don’t send the letter back, I can assume they didn’t disagree,” continued Klakken.

“So, if they mark it as a ‘disagree’ we count it as a ‘no’; if they don’t mark it, we count it as a ‘no’; if they don’t send it back, it’s a ‘yes’ or if they mark it as a ‘yes’” continued Klakken.

“And, where that matters is if there is 50 percent or more of the costs of the proposed program then we can’t take any more action for another 12 months,” added Klakken, saying a property owner’s vote would be weighted, based on how much he or she would be assessed for the parks district.

“If it’s more than 10 percent and less than 50, than it either stops or the governing body does a vote to decide do we send it to a referendum, which is a vote of the people,” continued the mayor.

“So, it 10 percent up to 50 percent say ‘no’ than we can’t just do it with a resolution vote, we actually have to go to an election.”

Klakken’s explanation on the process was followed by more than a half hour of discussion by the council on the merits of establishing a park district.

Tonight, the members of the public can offer their own views on the matter at the hearing set to start at 6:30 p.m.