July 23, 2013 — Elections have consequences — both at the national and local levels. A case in point right here in Susanville —the proposed Sierra Community Sports Complex project. The Susanville City Council voted 3-2 last Wednesday to not complete the grant process and walk away from $2.1 million in Proposition 84 grant funding from the state of California to build the 17.25-acre complex on Sierra Avenue.
There’s no reason to start pointing fingers and playing the blame game, but the local leadership changes and vision in the city council and two city administrations doomed the project.
One can only imagine how much staff time went into the planning process for the park — studying the grant criteria, preparing a grant, holding public meetings, preparing for discussions at city council meetings, completing the necessary environmental surveys, preparing the environmental documents for review, correspondence with the state, etc.
While no one will have to write a check today to cover these expenditures, it’s staggering to even consider how much time, effort, sweat and tears have been expended during several years before this project was voted down right at the deadline to file the final documents to secure the grant funding. I’m sure those who put their best work into making the park project a reality must feel deflated by last week’s vote.
Of course, the abandonment of the community park is a loss for the city and its residents. Councilmember Lino Callegari is right when he says the young people of Susanville could have used the facility. Once the city creates a park, it will most certainly remain a place city residents and the public can enjoy for many, many years to come. Everyone values open space, and clearly a park adds to the emotional character and value of any neighborhood. Callegari also said the city should take the grant money and build as much of the park as possible and complete it later.
The councilmembers who decided to nix the project have their perspective, too. They say the project was poorly planned from the beginning, required revisions to bring it in at budget and those cost-cutting changes eventually doomed the project and left it unsatisfactory.
While it’s hard to walk away from $2.1 million in grant money, they felt the project would not meet the community’s standards, and the city would be spending money to complete the park for years to come. One councilmember even said if the city built the park according to the current plans it would violate city codes requiring the park and its facilities to be handicapped accessible.
These types of flaws simply made the park proposal one a majority of the current city councilmembers could not support. It’s their call to make with the best interests of their constituents in mind.
The sports complex issue has divided the council since the very beginning, and while the old councilmembers supported the project the current councilmembers rejected it.
Even though the $2.1 million in grant funding could not be used to build a swimming pool, Councilmember Brian Wilson said the community wants a pool more than new sport complex.
Different leaders have a different vision for the future. That’s what we’re seeing today.
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