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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Village wise to slow park spending

Walking trail at the Park at Flat Rock runs along King Creek. Walking trail at the Park at Flat Rock runs along King Creek.

Politicians are not known for taking their promises seriously.


It's good to see that the honorables who run the Village of Flat Rock do.
The Flat Rock Village Council made the wise decision on April 10 to delay a new entrance driveway and parking lot for a year, saving at least $750,000. The cash savings should enable the village to maintain the park and continue less costly improvements without a property tax increase.
Taxpayers of the village can thank Vie Mayor Nick Weedman for pressing his fellow council members on the issue. A promise is a promise and Weedman made it clear that continuing to move forward with all the projects on the council's wish list would likely result in a property tax increase.
"Virtually everything we've done has cost significantly more than we've estimated," he said.
Weedman's calculations showed that the village's interest income at the current low rates yields too little income to pay the costs of maintenance and upkeep, estimated at $140,000 a year. The Village Council, in a 6-1 vote with Sheryl Jamerson voting no, endorsed Weedman's recommendation to impose a one-year moratorium on new capital projects and formally adopt a policy to maintain a fund balance of $3 million and operate and develop the park without a tax increase.
The road and parking lot project was the low-hanging fruit when it comes to the budget.NickWeedmanNick Weedman
There is no doubt that some residents of Highland Golf Villas are disappointed in the council's decision. They believe that the current entrance road, the one that leads also to their neighborhood, is inadequate and unsafe. Park visitation at the current level does not warrant a new entrance. There is less traffic in and out now than there was when the property was used as a golf course. If the council were to proceed now, taxpayers would be grumbling about a $1 million road to nowhere.
As it shepherds this new project along, the council has to balance the interest of its bosses — the taxpayers of Flat Rock — and the park users. Some want a dog park, some want a playground and some want a fitness trail. Some would be satisfied if nothing more is added beyond the current 1.3-mile walking trail.
It is not known how much the Flat Rock Park and Recreation Foundation will raise. The Village is investing $68,000 a year to operate the fundraising arm. If the foundation is successful at raising money through donations and grants, park development can proceed at a faster pace. This timeout may mean that the village does nothing more than add restrooms and mow the grass for a while and that's fine. The Village Council has already improved recreation and outdoor enjoyment for the area by buying and preserving the property and making it open to all. That's the nice thing about open space. It's not going anywhere.