COLUMBIA — In the wake of the resounding victory of the parks sales tax on the Nov. 3 ballot, the Columbia Parks and Recreation Commission agreed to make five projects its initial priorities at a Thursday meeting.
Before discussing the projects, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Griggs presented statistics from the election, in which voters approved a six-year extension of the one-eighth-cent sales tax for parks. Not only did the tax pass in all six wards (with an overall approval of 70.7 percent), he reported, but its approval rate increased in all six as well when compared with the 2010 vote that renewed it for five years.
See the voting breakdown below.
The tax will generate an estimated $18.4 million over the next six years.
Among its numerous project plans, the commission will focus first on renovations to the American Legion Park archery range and the Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center. It will also improve amenities at Nifong and Cosmo parks, as well as replace 17 drains at local aquatic centers to meet federal safety standards.
The American Legion Park archery range is set to receive more 20-yard targets and new targets accessible to residents with disabilities. The range will also be lengthened to accommodate an 80-yard target, and a new elevated shooting tower will be installed. This $35,000 project will use $20,000 from park sales tax revenue.
The Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center will receive a new bathhouse roof, as well as a new shade structure over its deep end and LED light updates to all fixtures. This project will take $80,000 from the tax's annual park improvements fund.
The drain replacements will occur at Albert-Oakland, the Douglass Family Aquatic Center and Twin Lakes Recreation Area. The $30,000 project will install drains that qualify as "anti-suction" under the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, although Griggs said the existing drain covers are safe.
"In our gravity-fed pools, the drains are like a vacuum where you can put your hand over one nozzle, but the others can still draw," he said. "This is a frustrating change we have to make, but because it's federal law, we have to comply."
At Cosmo Park, a 32-year-old pump station will be renovated, and the existing irrigation pond will be enlarged. It's a $90,000 project. At Nifong Park, plans include two new shelters, a playground and additional parking that will accommodate up to 72 cars.
Griggs said this Nifong project is one the commission "must get a jump on," since it must be completed before next year's Heritage Festival.
The projects are subject to final funding approval by the Columbia City Council, which is anticipated on Jan. 4.
Commissioner Linda Hutton praised her colleagues for their work ethic leading up to the election. She said it paid off with the renewal of the parks sales tax.
"Many of you worked long and hard hours," Hutton said, "and the respect you get from this city in return is just incredible."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.