In an initial volley of what is expected to be a difficult budget battle, the county council voted 5-4 to cut maintenance funding to Glen Echo Park.
Those who wished to maintain funding were Howard Denis (R-1), Tom Perez (D-5), Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), and George Leventhal (D-At Large).
The County Executive had included two separate items in his budget with regard to the park -- $100,000 as a grant to the park foundation for unspecified uses, and $121,720 for maintenance. The grant, part of an ongoing agreement, is still in the budget.
The council’s Transportation and Environment (T&E) committee voted 2-1 to cut that maintenance funding by $30,000. Perez was against any cut.
“Restore the park, restore the park, that was our mantra,” Perez said.
The park, owned by the National Park Service, had been restored through a partnership of federal, state and local funding.
Those who voted against the park funding say that maintenance was not part of the deal.
“We’re voting to support $100,000 for Glen Echo, what we’re not supporting was $91,000 for maintenance,” said Steve Silverman (D-At Large)
The Glen Echo Park Partnership, which operates the park is dismayed. “It’s going to be very difficult for the partnership,” said Katey Boerner, executive director of the partnership. “If we have to spend our money on HVAC contractors, we won’t be able to answer the phones every day.”
Boerner believes that, unless the funding is restored, services will go down. “We will not maintian the buildings,” she said. “It’s very destabilizing for the park,”
The Park Service is not happy about the cuts, but they believe that by providing the $100,000, the county fulfills its obligations.
“$100,000 for four years was their commitment,” said Audrey Calhoun, superintendent of the George Washington Parkway, the parent park of Glen Echo.
Perez, however thinks that the action may damage the county’s reputation.
“This effects our ability to go to Capitol Hill and talk about enduring partnerships,” he said.
Silverman thinks the county does not have to fear of setting a precedent in this case. “This is not something that the previous council had agreed to,” he said.
Those who supported the funding have not given up the fight for funding.
“I’m going to make an all out effort to a have it restored,” said councilman Howard Denis (R-1). Denis says he sees this as something of a straw vote and will continue to fight for the park’s funding. “I haven’t given up on this,” he said.
Perez concurred with Denis’ sentiments. “We’re going to try to get some of it back in,” he said.