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Senior center, restrooms and Camp Fresno. How does city’s parks budget address them?

Supporter makes case for spirit of Measure P

Sandra Celedon, President/CEO of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, talks on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019, about Measure P, the parks initiative that failed in November, and the need of funding for city parks still remains.
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Sandra Celedon, President/CEO of Fresno Building Healthy Communities, talks on Thursday Jan. 24, 2019, about Measure P, the parks initiative that failed in November, and the need of funding for city parks still remains.

The Fresno City Council on Monday pledged $1 million toward building a senior center in Fresno – the exact same commitment the council made last year.

Approximately 144,000 senior citizens in Fresno still have no dedicated senior center, and they showed up at Monday’s first round of annual city budget hearings venting about it.

“I think we’ve been forgotten,” Bill Dailey, a well-known, retired college professor in his 70s, told the council.

He asked the council to dust off the plans for a senior center, adding he hopes to see the project completed in his lifetime.

In the year since the senior center funding was thrust into the spotlight, the city’s Parks, After school, Recreation & Community Services (PARCS) budget has dominated public discussion, mostly because of the deteriorating state of the city’s parks and green spaces.

A need for more parks money was highlighted by proponents of Measure P, a ballot measure for a 3/8-cent sales tax that would’ve generated $37.5 million annually for 30 years for Fresno parks and cultural arts. The November ballot measure received 52 percent of “yes” votes, and whether that is enough to enact the tax is being challenged in court.

The lack of a senior center was only one of many budget issues in the PARCS department discussed Monday.

Councilmember Esmeralda Soria said she’s frustrated with the turnover in the top position for the PARCS department. She also asked how the city planned to tackle $122 million in deferred maintenance at parks.

Councilmember Miguel Arias said, in short, he’s disgusted by the condition of the city’s parks. He called attention to the condition of restrooms in city parks and how often they’re cleaned – and to what degree.

“Our parks are in disarray,” he said. “…It doesn’t seem to me like we have a viable plan to make any improvements. I hope you’re not solely relying on taxpayers approving more cash.”

Assistant City Manager Jim Schaad asked whether the city should divest in Camp Fresno, a city-owned community of cabins and dining pavilion in the Sierra.

By the end of the discussion, Councilmember Luis Chavez recommended allocating another $1 million to PARCS.

“I’m happy to see the PARCS budget increase, but it’s still not enough,” said Kimberly McCoy, a parks advocate. “…This is why Measure P was so important.”

Monday was the first day of budget hearings, which are scheduled for six more days: June 6, 10, 11, 18 and during the June 20 and 27 regularly scheduled city council meetings. The City Council must approve a balanced budget by June 30.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.
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