The Canby Area Parks and Rec District (CAPRD), an elected body in existence since the 1960s, not to be confused with the city's park and recreation advisory committee, is asking the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners (BOC) to shrink its size to mirror Canby's urban growth boundary.
CAPRD's boundaries essentially mirror that of the Canby School District, but many people who live "out in the country" don't want to participate — meaning paying taxes towards parks in Canby that they most likely will not use — so the BOC has drafted a resolution and wants the City of Canby to sign a letter saying they either disagree with or support the idea of shrinking CAPRD.
Jim Bernard, chairman of the county BOC, said CAPRD keeps getting put on the ballot but no one is paying to maintain parks or to build new ones.
"That's an issue for us taxpayers that Clackamas County is putting $15,000 in unpaid elections costs just to get it on the ballot over the years when no one is able to pay the bill," Bernard said. "Why are we doing it when there doesn't appear to be any money to do that or money to spend? I think it's a great idea to shrink the district."
The City of Canby has about $2.5 million it's collected in system development charges — one time fees collected from developers for new construction — but they city can't use that money for anything other than capital expenditures. For instance, the city has an enterprise fund it can use for sewer, wastewater and storm water expenses, but if, for example, Canby Area Transit needed a new bus, or repairs to an engine — or if anything at all is needed — the city couldn't simply take money from the enterprise fund to pay for CAT's needs. Think of each city fund as its own individual silo that can only be used for specific purposes, City Administrator Rick Robinson said.
Don Morgan, an elected CAPRD member for about 12 years, said he's "been anti the whole time" because of the way "they've gone about trying to pass things."
"There's been no background, or no forethought, for somebody to come up with a plan (for CAPRD's mission)," Morgan said. "The next thing you knew it was on the ballot as a measure. Since then, it's been proven that it's not going to pass. Our plan now is to consolidate the district into a smaller district. The impression most people have is it's just money going to the city, which wasn't true but that's the impression everyone had. In my opinion, I've never seen a good comprehensive plan to put to the people anywhere about what we want to do. It's been more of a seat-of- the-pants deal."
Morgan said CAPRD has gone to the BOC, which more or less has authority over the board, including the ability to reduce the size of the district to CAPRD's request if it wants.
"The Board of Commissioners, what they would like is a memo from the City of Canby that they're not in opposition to (shrinking the district)," Morgan said.
Robinson said that from a city administrator's perspective, he thinks that the city needs to acknowledge CAPRD is an independent park district with an independently-elected body. The City of Canby needs to respect that there is a process for creating the board and that keeps it going, he said.
"But you're right in the way you described the roles," Robinson said. "The city has traditionally focused on parks to serve families — gathering places if you will. Wait Park, Canby Community Park, Legacy Park, Maple Street Park — those are good examples of the types of parks that we serve. The opportunity this presents is, if it's successful, the district could present a program that results in expansion of services available to the community. The risk is that it's two independent bodies competing, arguably, for the same money."
At the same time, Robinson said he has to acknowledge that the city is embarking on its own vision for building something in its own parks system that's more robust than it currently has.
"If we are going to pursue our instant desire, which is improving the system we currently have in place and the properties we currently own, then we need to really focus internally on what we can accomplish as a public agency," Robinson said.
Councilor Greg Parker said the city council is on a trajectory to receive a staff report on a recommendation for city funding and since the council has not yet seen that report it's difficult to tell what's in the City of Canby's plan before engaging in that discussion.
"Outside of what I'm elected to do I want to do my due diligence, which is to review the staff report and talk to my colleagues," Parker said. "One option I see is to do a straight up or down vote on whether or not to impose a parks fee similar to what we have as a street (maintenance) fee. I think this council needs to get to that point first. If the answer is yes, then go into an accelerated planning process. If the answer is no, then I think we have another discussion about whether we want to refer it to voters."
Councilor Tracie Heidt said she would like to see exactly what a $5 fee would buy the citizens of Canby.