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Parks district talks break down

Although the issue was before the Troutdale City Council for nearly 90 minutes, it was almost immediately clear that creating a parks district is not viewed positively by the councilors. Mayor Doug Daoust attempted to present the concept to his council at a Sept. 15 work session dedicated to discussing the facets related in creating a parks district.

“The opinion that Doug wants to hand off parks to someone else, is completely different than what the truth is,” Daoust said.

The presentation focused on the benefits of parks in the community, as well as funding spent on park maintenance and improvements.

“When you talk to people about attracting business or attracting people to live in your community, that’s what people pay attention to,” he said. “It’s pretty much at the top of the list of what people consider, along with schools.”

In theory, a parks district combines resources from multiple areas — such as Troutdale, Fairview, Wood Village and Gresham — to provide stable funding. The district is formed by local government entities and makes decisions as a cooperative group. Funding often comes from levy assessments, property taxes or other fees, such as a utility fee paid monthly.

Currently, there are about 65 special districts in Oregon, which regulate anything from parks, to pools, to fire protection.

“I know in talking to the council and other people that there’s some hot buttons with the parks district discussion. I’m well aware of that,” Daoust said.

The power structure, for example, was clearly an issue for most of the council.

“You’re going to end up having a district necessarily dominated by Gresham,” said Councilor Dave Ripma. “They’re bigger than the rest of us put together.”

A suitable alternative option, it seemed, is forming a joint-recreation program in lieu of a parks district. Fairview Mayor Ted Tosterud and Councilor Brian Cooper were in attendance at the council meeting, waiting to share their view points on a program and the parks district option.

“Do I think a park district is the right option? I don’t know. An IGA (intergovernmental agreement)? I don’t know. Fairview has been talking about parks for 13 years. It’s time for us to do something,” Cooper said. “What I’m hoping I can get out of you guys is what we did. We will look at options without spending any money.”

Tosterud and Cooper were unable to formally comment, however, as the meeting adjourned somewhat abruptly after discussion disintegrated into arguments and hypotheticals.

Daoust stressed his goal from the meeting was to agree to explore what options are open to the council.

“This is my request. Continue the discussion between the elected leaders be it three cities or four cities, whatever it turns out to be,” he said. “Come up with some goals including elected leaders other than us. It’s not just this council. Explore the options. I’m not asking this council to commit to a parks district. I’m asking to continue the discussion.”

Ultimately, a firm direction was not given to city staff, but merely agreeing that pursuing a joint-recreation program would be preferable.

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