By Brian-Paul Crowder, Guest Columnist
Theoretically, I am enormously in favor of the city of Little Falls having an Area Recreational Complex. Theoretically.
Despite voting “No,” I don’t necessarily object to the city moving ahead with the project; what I object to and voted against was its poor planning.
There has been so much attention focused on our “wish list” but like kids at Christmastime, it’s then up to the adults in the equation to thoroughly review all aspects and determine the requests’ real-life feasibility. I think most of us can say that at some point in childhood we asked for a pony, but if you have a small backyard and your family struggles to buy food each week, then a pony is out of the question regardless of how wonderful it would be to give such an extravagant gift.
In the case of the Little Falls Area Recreational Complex, I don’t think the answer is an obvious “No.” What I do think however, is that the most important and fundamental questions and issues have yet to be fully addressed.
We can come up with the funds to build a house and draft plans to purchase beautiful materials, but if we fail to give due consideration to the ground, foundation and long-term day-to-day costs, we risk our investment turning to ruin.
First, we’re asking taxpayers to shoulder capital costs of over $7 million through a local option sales tax in the city of Little Falls, over a 12-year period. But, even during the final presentation on July 7, there was still no clear plan as to how the city intended to cover the $20,000 or more it will cost annually to operate and maintain the splash pad alone, not to mention maintenance of baseball fields.
Any school district can attest to how expensive this is. When the mayor answered the splash pad maintenance concern by saying, “We easily bellied up to $25,000 for the golf course this year,” she unwittingly made my case and point to the tee.
The golf course was established under the very same pretense as the recreational complex we’re now considering, yet here we are decades later, “bellying up” to subsidize its operations year after year with a Golf Board that hasn’t met since 2012.
I think we have a responsibility to ensure that today’s hard-earned investments don’t become tomorrow’s relentless financial drain to our taxpayers.
Brian-Paul Crowder is the alderman-at-large for the city of Little Falls.