County budget: parks, not vets buildings

Posted on March 3, 2011 by Sonoma Valley Sun

A mandatory 25 percent cut to the county budget won’t affect Sonoma Valley parks but will alter prices and availability of the local Veterans Memorial Building.

The county maintains eight such facilities, according to Caryl Hart, director of the Regional Parks Department. Charges for event staffing, utilities and other costs are far above what the venue earns in rental revenue.

“These buildings are very, very expensive to operate,” she said. “It’s a huge drain on the department budget.”

Rental fee increases are probable, Hall said, and the building will be available less for public rentals, perhaps only on alternate weekends.

Use and access by veterans will not be affected.

Hall said she is working with the city to study how the building might be used and marketed more productively. “We’re looking at all options,” Hart said. “I think something positive is going to happen, and it’s going to happen with your civic leaders.”

The city council will consider authorizing a formal feasibility study. The goal, Hart said, is to research various funding options and partnerships. “We’ve got to look at all the options.”

Like all county department heads, Hart said she has been instructed by the Board of Supervisors to plan for a 25-percent budget cut. Parks, not buildings, are the priority.

“There will be no change in the services that relate to regional parks,” she said. “That’s a core service.”

Facilities such as Maxwell Farms and Sonoma Valley Regional Parks will continue to have the same staffing and maintenance in the next fiscal year. As the investment in park operation benefits more people, “That’s where department resources should be spent.”

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