SHERIDAN — The question of whether to eliminate funding for the creation of a pond in Malcolm Wallop Park was the only point of contention as city councilors approved amendments to the city’s budget earlier this week.
The FY2022 budget includes a $200,000 allocation for the creation of a pond in Wallop Park, according to City Administrator Stuart McRae. This is in addition to $180,000 in previously allocated city funds and $340,000 in grants the city has accumulated since 2018 for the pond.
The project was previously budgeted at $700,000, but in a recently revised estimate, the cost jumped to $974,000, according to McRae. Rather than allocating more money for the project, it is staff’s recommendation to eliminate the project from the city’s budget, at least for now, McRae said. The grants would be returned and the $200,000 would be reallocated to work at Black Tooth Park including the installation of a public restroom.
This recommendation didn’t sit well with former Mayor Roger Miller, who noted the pond project had been a six-year labor of love for the city and encouraged the council to proceed with the project while splitting the costs over two years.
“We’ve put the work in for years to get it to this place,” Miller said of the project. “…There’s plenty of money in the budget to get this project going and finish it up in next year’s budget cycle. That is what I would beg this council to do.”
Councilor Jacob Martin also expressed concern about canceling the project and wondered whether there would be any long-term consequences of returning grant dollars. However, city engineer Hanns Mercer said he didn’t expect any repercussions.
“It’s never desirable to return grant money given to the community, but if it’s something we must do, I know we will be given grants in the future again,” Mercer said. “…It wouldn’t be viewed as favorable, but it’s something the community could overcome.”
Councilor Steven Brantz was in favor of canceling the pond project and reallocating the dollars to Black Tooth Park. Brantz said it made sense to finish work on existing projects before investing nearly $1 in a new one.
“I do like the idea of just finishing what we have,” Brantz said. “…Don’t bite off more than we can chew right now.”
Councilor Aaron Linden agreed.
“We have a lot of great properties, but the ongoing operation and maintenance sometimes is difficult,” Linden said. “We don’t have enough staff as we all have learned. So I am in full agreement with (finishing work in Black Tooth).”
Rather than make a decision during the June 7 meeting, Martin moved to postpone the vote on the pond allocation to the council’s June 14 meeting. Doing so gave councilors a few more days to consider the issue, Martin said.
While a final decision on the pond allocation was postponed until next week, councilors did approve five other amendments to the city’s Fiscal 2022 budget. These included reducing the allocation for movement of the city’s locomotive from $200,000 to $50,000; increasing the allocation for Firefighter Plan A Retirement contingency funds from $100,000 to $200,000; allocating $5,000 to support incidental costs related to local tours by U.S. Congressional staffers; and appropriating $5,400 to upgrade multi-factor authentication, which increases security on city technology and computers.
During the same meeting, council voted unanimously to increase its allocation to the Sheridan Educational and Economic Development Association joint powers board by $26,000, to better match contributions being made by Sheridan College.