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Sunnyside parks budget no longer lean

The people have spoken and Sunnyside appears to be listening as the city staff has proposed to increase its parks budget by more than 50 percent in 2006.

Park spending will increase from just over $500,000 in 2005 to about $800,000 in 2006.

The increase comes after complaints by residents regarding the condition of ball fields at SunnyView Park as well as conditions at other parks.

The result?

A beefed up budget and a parks laundry list that proposes $6,500 for fertilizer, weed spray and pool filters. Sunnyside Public Works Director Jim Bridges said the fields and lawns had not been fertilized in the past. The addition of sod and an aerator will also help with areas between the backstops at SunnyView.

Bridges said plans are already in place with city soccer teams, for example, to rotate fields with the school district so that city park fields are not over-used.

The three biggest ticket items for park improvements are $161,000 for tennis court repairs at South Hill Park and a skate park at Sunny View.

A total of $56,500 is proposed to be spent on replacing shake roofs at South Hill with metal roofs to match the nearby community center, repairing damage done by vandals to bathrooms at South Hill and fixing swimming pool equipment.

"From a distance the slide looks fine," Bridges said of the pool slide. "But if you look close the support structure is rusting. It's scary."

An additional $55,590 is proposed to be spent in 2006 on a full time park maintenance employee.

Central Park will also be in for some improvements as a gully is proposed to be leveled out due to concerns expressed on behalf of senior citizens.

Bridges, hired a year ago as Public Works Director, said his department hasn't waited until 2006 to carry out some park improvements. "It's pretty amazing what we've been able to do with the budget we had for 2005," he said.

One change occurred this fall when Bridges streamlined the collection of leaves at Central Park. Also, the purchase of an advanced lawnmower saved staff time in mowing lawns, enabling time to be spent on maintenance in preparing for winter.

In another example, Bridges said he saved countless man hours on the picnic pavilion.

"There was an open truss roof before and there would be bird droppings all over the picnic tables," he explained. "Any time someone reserved the tables we'd have to send in three or four guys to spray down the tables. But we put up some plywood to cover the trusses and eliminated the problem."

While 2006 could shape up as a good year budget-wise for Sunnyside's parks, the final numbers won't be decided until next Monday when the city council is expected to take action during its meeting at 6:30 p.m.

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