Public gives input on extension of park services

PLYMOUTH — The public had an opportunity to speak on the subject of the Plymouth Park and Recreation Department extending park services to Center and West Townships Monday evening in the park board’s regularly scheduled meeting. The potential change was initially prompted by a survey the park department did of people using the park last year, according to board president Dave Morrow. The survey found that a large number of people using park services resided outside the city’s limits. The park board decided to consider extending normal park services to West and Center Townships in order to spread tax responsibilities out over more than just city of Plymouth residents.
“We received petitions from residents in Center and West Townships to extend park services in those areas,” said Morrow.
One attendee of the public hearing, Terry Borggren, questioned the makeup of the park board if Center and West Townships were to be pulled into the park system. In that case, there would be two additional members on the board to represent those townships. Borggren inquired about the fairness of such a board since the other six members would be representing the city of Plymouth. Several board members responded that their seats did not necessarily have to belong to city residents.
Another audience member questioned whether the Blueberry Festival Committee could charge an entrance fee of $1 to attendees of the festival, so the park could use that money to extend services rather than tax Center and West Townships residents.
Board member Jim Causey said that there had been a previous unsuccessful attempt to charge admission to the Blueberry Festival.
“The logistics of that…it’s almost impossible to collect (admission),” said Causey, adding that the park would have to hire a security team to enforce collection.
“This has been proposed before,” said Causey, “It would be nice but it’s not practical.”
Board members said that the Blueberry Festival Committee does pay $31,000 a year to use the park for the festival.
Borggren also felt that the amount of tax increase he would have to pay if his township went into the park system was too high. He had calculated that he would pay $77 additional in property taxes each year. He also mentioned that he did calculations for a farmer he knows with property in both Center and West townships, and that individual would have to pay more than $500 more each year.
“No one likes their taxes increasing,” said Morrow, “(but) at this point the city residents are carrying the entire tax burden.”
He later added, “I don’t think you could have something more fair — it’s going to be the taxpayers that make the final decision.”
After further discussion, the public hearing was closed and the park board voted to pass a resolution recommending that the city council approve the extension of park services to Center and West townships. If the city also approves the resolution, the matter will be placed on the ballot in November’s election, where registered voters will be able to chose whether or not to allow the change.