Parks director cautiously optimistic about funding
Finding money to pay for parks is a tricky thing for the city of Covington.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Director Scott Thomas explained while Covington was ranked second in its category in the grant application process that doesn’t guarantee funding.
“In a normal year that would just be like money in the bank, that high of a ranking,” Thomas said. “Because of the state’s fiscal crisis... that ranking doesn’t necessarily lead to funding.”
Thomas is working to find money to pay for construction of Covington Community Park located at 180th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 240th Street.
The site is about 30 acres and is a collection of four parcels purchased by the city in 2003 and then brought into King County’s urban growth boundary in 2004. It was annexed into the city in 2008.
During the winter as well as throughout the legislative session this year, Thomas added, city staff has been working with representatives from the 5th Legislative District because that is where the site is located. In addition, representatives from the 47th have been involved because much of the city of Covington is located in that district.
Covington is slated to receive about $500,000 for the Community Park if the state legislature approves a $50 million appropriation to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
When Thomas first spoke to the Reporter on April 12, it wasn’t yet clear if the legislature was going to fund that, so while the money had been awarded it still wasn’t a done deal.
As of April 19 things were starting to look better.
“Both the House and the Senate capital committees have recommended enough funds for WWRP for our project to be funded,” Thomas said in an email. “It is a near certainty now as apparently recommendations aren’t made unless the votes are assured, yet we do await both committee votes. The House and Senate proposals are significantly different, so after they pass each committee and each chamber, they still need to go to conference. As it is already determined that there will be a special session, we wont know for sure until May (just as I have predicted all along). All that said, so far so good.”
Beyond that, Thomas noted, there are two other funding opportunities the city has been competing for as well as smaller awards from other sources that could help pay for construction of Covington Community Park.
“We also competed for King County Youth Sports Facilities grant and we were awarded that county grant,” he said. “That grant is funded in the county’s budget, so, it’s just a pro forma step to get that under contract... so, that money is as good as in the bank.”
Additionally, the city applied for a federal land and water conservation fund grant, which Thomas explained is funded through royalties from offshore drilling leases, known by the acronym LWCF. In exchange for using the public land the private companies pay fees that go into the fund. Those revenues are used only for parks projects though typically for national parks.
“There’s a portion of that money which is called stateside which goes into local parks,” Thomas said. “We ranked No. 4 but the funding is so small that we’re probably outside of that band of funding.”
Thomas said there are two projects the city wants to start working on at Covington Community Park. The WWRP money would be used to build a soccer field while the federal grant money would be used to build a trail system.
“If we get both, then we’d build both at the same time,” Thomas said. “If the soccer field falls through and the trail system from LWCF falls through I still have access to funding to do part of the trail system.”
Covington is allocated money from the King County Parks levy as well as from the King Conservation District. Neither of those funding sources require a competitive process to procure the cash.
It can also be used as matching funding on competitive grants.
As the process moves forward at the state and federal levels, Thomas said, things will eventually shake out as far as how much money Covington will receive.
“A month from now, the picture will be more clear,” Thomas said on April 12.
Reach Kris Hill at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5054.
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