Print Town presses for park funds despite economy
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 10 December 2008 12:26

First, the Town of Camp Verde bought a park.

It was 118 acres just over the river, and the town picked it up from the U.S. Forest Service for a cool $2.4 million.

Then the bottom fell out from the economy, bad news for a town that gets most of its money from sales tax revenue.

But the park has been on the town’s wish list for decades; now that the land is in hand, the Town Council wants to see ball fields up and running as soon as possible. The town’s one field at Butler Park doesn’t come close to meeting current demand. Local fields are not only practical, they’re a matter of civic pride, when so many of the town’s little league teams have to travel to other cities just to play ball.

Despite the current state of the economy, the town has a plan that could see the fields built by 2010.

The money could come from a grant from the Arizona State Parks Department, but there’s a catch. Any money awarded has to be matched 50/50 by funds from town coffers. After recent rounds of painful budget cuts, there’s just no money left over for parks.

The town could still get as much as $750,000 from the grant program under a plan floated last week by Town Manager Michael Scannell. Instead of putting up cash, the town could claim the money spent on the park land as its share of the match.

The grant paperwork needs to be complete by Feb. 27, 2009 in order to meet the 2010 construction schedule, Scannell said. Delays could push construction back by a year or more.

Mayor Tony Gioia implored the town’s staff to research every possible angle that could improve the town’s chances of getting a check from the state; it’s necessary given the economy, Gioia said.

“It’s going to be more competitive than ever before,” Gioia said.

Ball fields are great, said Councilman Charlie German, but they don’t mean a thing if the town can’t provide the needed infrastructure to the park site, including water and electricity.

Parks and Recreation Director Lynda Moore said a plan was already in the works to address that issue. Scannell said that an engineering report would be necessary to see what the town’s best options are, and that he would soon be asking the council to spend $100,000 from its $600,000 capital improvement fund to send out a request for engineering services.

Getting those plans completed sooner than later could improve the town’s chances of getting the grant, Scannell said, because the state likes to see that local governments have concrete plans in place before opening the checkbook.