After a delay of one week, the city council in Springfield, Massachusetts has greenlighted a major park improvement project.
The City Council at a special meeting Monday voted 12-0 to approve a $1.6 million bond for a project to upgrade Riverfront park – just a week after the bond issue failed to pass after councilors voiced concerns about the conditions of other parks.
Pat Sullivan, the city’s director of parks, said the vote clears the way for a $3 million improvement project at the park located downtown along the banks of the Connecticut River.
" We're very excited," said Sullivan. " We appreciate all the good comments from the city councilors and look forward to starting the project next spring."
MGM, which is building a casino a few blocks away from the park, is donating $1 million to the project and the state has awarded a $400,000 grant.
At a meeting of the City Council’s Maintenance and Development Committee, held just before the special meeting of the full council, Sullivan presented a report detailing a multi-year improvement plan for the city’s parks system.
But he said the total price tag, $400 million, means the work has to be done “piecemeal.”
" Every day we search for federal, state, and private foundation grant money that exists out there to match to a park project," explained Sullivan. " We would like to do more , but with the resources we have we are getting a lot of work done across the city of Springfield, not just in downtown."
City Council President Orlando Ramos said constituents have complained to him about the conditions of parks in the Indian Orchard neighborhood he represents. He said he was pleased with the information in the report presented by Sullivan.
" We will continue to have this conversation," said Ramos. " It is an important issue: how are we going to maintain the parks across the city?"
Springfield Mayor Domenic criticized the delay in approving the bond, warning it could jeopardize the state grant to the city for the project.
City Councilor Kateri Walsh, who is chairperson of the Maintenance and Development Committee, urged passage of the bond without further delay.
" There is nothing in ( this bond issue) for park improvements across the city," said Walsh. " To delay this bond issue, I think is counterproductive."
Betsy Johnson, a downtown resident, also urged the council to approve the bond for the park improvements.
" It is where we go for major recreation, which now is walking and bicycling because there are currently no other facilities," said Johnson. " It is a wonderful open space."
Officials hope to have the project completed by September 2018 when MGM is scheduled to open the casino.