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Skate Park: Now or 2012?

Two budget recommendations conflict.

The fate of Herndon’s municipal skate park has once again come into question as the Town Council will officially review a budget recommendation next week that, if accepted, could push funding for the park as far as 2012.

An alternate budget recommendation to the council, set by Herndon’s Planning Commission last month, repositions the park’s estimated $150,000 cost five fiscal years later than the town staff recommendation, which would see its funding allocated in the coming year. Herndon’s Town Council is set to review the opposing capital improvement program budgets beginning at a public hearing on May 8.

The Planning Commission recommendation, which cites the need to move the park due to a tightening CIP budget, already drew several local skaters and park supporters to the council’s April 24 public hearing, who renewed their calls for park funding. Those calls initiated the skate park planning process when Herndon’s previous council last year approved $25,000 for site planning and location.

Several of Herndon’s residents have requested that the council move to establish the park to offer a local alternative recreational activity for skateboarders and rollerbladers, tired of traveling long distances to the closest regional skate parks in Leesburg and Arlington.

THE PLANNING COMMISSION’S recommendation to move the funding for the park to fiscal year 2012 shouldn’t be seen as a denial of the park’s viability but as a condition required by a shrinking amount of available funding for new town construction, according to Herndon Planning Commission chairman Carl Sivertsen. Other necessary future town projects, such as road maintenance, stormwater management and municipal building maintenance should take precedence over the skate park, he said.

"We want to take care of what we have with what money we have before we look to new things," said Sivertsen. "Sometimes this is about patience and finding what is needed at the time and having priorities."

The skate park is affordable to the town right now without any impact on other projects as it is requested to be funded by Herndon development proffers — money received from local developers exclusively for creation and improvement of town parks and recreational resources — according to acting town manager Art Anselene. If approved, the $150,000 would be allocated from the town’s proffer fund, which currently holds about $200,000 in available finances, he said.

"No bonds or general fund money will be utilized," Anselene said, who emphasized that proffer funds cannot be used for projects outside of the town’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

INCREASINGLY SCARCE funds should not yet be locked up into its development considering the town has yet to choose a park location or begin discussions of how it will be used or monitored, , according to Sivertsen. Supplementary costs associated with the site after it is established, such as maintenance and monitoring fees, must also be questioned, he added.

"Once you build something, the next thing you have to do is pay to take care of it," Sivertsen said. "When you have certain constraints to the budget and limits on where you can put something, you can’t always have everything for everyone."

But an official site will be chosen and site planning and design can begin shortly if the funding is approved with the budget this month, Anselene said. Currently, a committee of town parks staff and citizens are reviewing two to three locations for the park in town, he added. Since the council has not seen the proposed sites, they could not be disclosed as of yet, according to Cindy Roeder, acting director of Parks and Recreation.

"I have been assured that there are some suitable sites for a skate park, it’s just that they haven’t decided on one yet," said council member Harlon Reece. Reece added that he is inclined to support funding for the park if proffer money can definitely cover its construction and a suitable and safe location is chosen.

In the end, the decision will come down to how what the final price tag of the park will be, how it will be paid for and the possible future impact of the site, said Vice Mayor Dennis Husch.

"I certainly support the skate park and would like to see it done now as opposed to later," Husch said. "But I can say that we don’t want to get to the point where we have to raise taxes."