The La Vista City Council's recent support for a $42 million Civic Center Park plan does not mean that the city has committed any public funds for its construction, Mayor Doug Kindig says.
Last week, the council voted unanimously to adopt the master plan for a 56-acre downtown park with a larger lake, amphitheater, boathouse and upgraded playgrounds.
La Vista has yet to identify the financing that would pay for the park. Kindig said previously that officials were looking at a combination of grants, private partnerships, bonds and a possible half-cent increase in the city sales tax to one day fund the costly project.
“This is a long-term blueprint,” Kindig said at the Tuesday meeting. “It's 10, 15, 20, 25 years down the road. I would think future councils would be wise enough, as this one has been, not to spend money foolishly and only when they have it.”
The master plan, a key component of La Vista's Vision 84 downtown revitalization plan, calls for multiple construction phases.
The initial five phases would cost $14.8 million for a lake expansion, walking trails, the completion of the Thompson Creek restoration and new structures such as an amphitheater for concerts and other events.
Six additional phases of optional add-ons would cost an additional $26.8 million.
“When the time is right for any of the phases and financing can be found, then you could move ahead,” said Dolores Silkworth, a landscape architect at RDG Planning & Design, the consultant for the park project. “These phases were designed in movable chunks. The expectation is you don't have to complete everything in a calendar year.”
City Council members said they have seen the plan several times before, as it evolved through community forums, working groups and City Planning Commission meetings.
“This has been a long process and a very thorough one, and I'd especially like to thank the public for their enthusiastic participation in the process,” Councilman Kelly Sell said. “This is definitely going to be a plan I would think is a consensus of the general public.”
Not so fast, Councilman Ron Sheehan said. He pointed out that the city thought it had public support when it floated two multimillion-dollar proposals for a new water park, in 2008 and 2012, only to see residents balk at the price tag and reject the two bond issues at the polls.
“These are today's prices. What will this cost in the future?” Sheehan asked.
“These aren't going to be the same numbers one year from now or five years from now. It's going to go way up. Let's find the funding mechanisms before we start doing all this stuff.”
Still, Sheehan said, he liked the plan and voted in favor of adopting it.
Kindig said having a detailed plan that has been adopted by the Planning Commission and City Council puts La Vista in a better position to win grants.
Said Councilwoman Terrilyn Quick, “I think it's very visionary. We've taken this and we've done a good job of involving everyone. It's a vision, it's a blueprint, it's an objective.”