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Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

McMurry Field, Hamline Park play area make cut in city’s 2020 budget process

Posted on 27 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By JANE McCLURE

A $373,500 construction project is set for 2020 at Hamline Park’s playground, if the funding is approved by the city. (Photo submitted)

With completion of a June public hearing process, St. Paul’s 2020-2021 capital spending recommendations are en route to Mayor Melvin Carter and the St. Paul City Council for inclusion in the 2020 city budget. The recommendations were due in the mayor’s office June 30.
Improvements to McMurray Field and a new Hamline Park play area made the cut, but the long-awaited replacement of Fire Station 20 at University and Cretin/Vandalia was set aside.
Another project that was postponed is planning for the Central District Police headquarters, which moved off of Rice St. in the 1990s. District offices are now at the main headquarters near downtown. Penciled in for the future is planning for the future of the Hamline-Midway and West Side’s Riverview branch libraries.
Hamline Park playground is poised for $373,500 million in 2020, if the committee recommendations make it into the final budget.
Parks and Recreation sought $4 million to replace artificial turf fields at McMurray. The committee recommendation is for $1.5 million.

Will libraries be replaced?
Libraries sought more than $7 million for the two libraries. The recommendation is for planning money in the years ahead.
One idea that has been discussed in the Hamline-Midway neighborhood is to replace the current library on Minnehaha Ave. with some type of community arts center, using the existing library building. Some neighborhood activists wanted to see the current library preserved as such a center or for other uses.
Library spokesperson Phoebe Larson said there are no plans for the library’s future. The next steps will come out of the planning process.
“Both libraries have aging facilities,” she said. No decisions have been made as to whether or not buildings would be modernized or replaced. Each library is more than a century old.
As for Fire Station 20, it was set aside in favor of more pressing needs at Fire Station 7 on the city’s East Side. Replacement of Station 20 has an estimated cost of $8.184 million. Its replacement has been discussed for more than a decade.
The largest 2020-2021 submission was replacement of Rice Recreation Center in the city’s North End, with $11.2 million sought in 2020 and $2.3 million in 20201. The project was awarded $400,000 for planning.

Yes, CIB process has changed
The committee recommendations were developed by a city-staff CIB committee working group and then reviewed by the CIB Committee.
If veteran community activists think the Long-Range Capital Improvement Budget (CIB) process has changed, they’re right. The 2020-2021 budget cycle is the first under a new process for funding capital projects. The process has been in the works since late 2016. The CIB Committee is still working on details of the new process.
“We were building the plane while we were flying it,” said Madeline Mitchell of the Office of Financial Services.
The budget includes $4.451 million in capital bond-supported projects in 2020 and 2021. Most funded projects are for capital maintenance for city facilities. A second public hearing is planned for this fall.
The proposed capital budget calls for $4 million per year in federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) spending, $4.451 million per year for annual programs and $6.224 million per year for large projects.
Until 2015, the capital budget process in St. Paul was long, involved, and heavy on community engagement. More than 100 projects were submitted every other year. Every district council is invited to have representatives on CIB task forces on community facilities, streets and utilities, and residential and economic development. The among of staff and volunteer time spent on CIB prompted then-Mayor Chris Coleman’s administration to put the entire process on pause in 2016 so that it could be studied. The 2018-2019 cycle included larger projects chosen in 2017, including the Frogtown Recreation Center.
The t

A $373,500 construction project is set for 2020 at Hamline Park’s playground, if the funding is approved by the city. (Photo submitted)

ask forces are gone. 2020-2021 projects were reviewed by a city staff-CIB Committee group. They used criteria including departmental long-range plans, racial equity and condition of facilities to make decisions.

Is there enough community input?
CIB Committee members had mixed reactions to the new process.
Committee member Paul Raymond said he appreciates that small, community driven projects won’t have to go up against large projects such as fire stations and recreation centers.
But others, including Committee member Joel Clemmer, said they’d like to see city departments do more community engagement when they bring projects forward in the future.
Capital Planning Team members said that while there were tough choices, the recent process was easier than previous CIB rounds, where there were so many submissions to choose from. It also helped participants to look at project scoring and discuss needs. Several agreed it was good to hear focused projects.
In 2020, the CIB Committee and staff will review a small pool of community-based projects. The funding amount to be shared has been suggested at $500,000.

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