Rochester is looking at an option to put a sizable dent in an estimated $80 million in improvements proposed in the 2016 Parks and Recreation System Plan.
Among the things that could be completed sooner than expected is replacing the city’s two outdoor pools.
“We would love to dig in and get started on that,” Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said.
A proposal calling for borrowing $15 million, with half of the annual $2 million from the city’s park referendum used as annual payments, was given a nod Tuesday by the city’s Park Board.
The support doesn’t make it a completed deal, but Widman said Rochester City Council members have been equally supportive of the move during recent private discussions with two to three members at time.
The proposed $15 million plan calls for $7 million in funding of Soldiers Field improvements, which would include a new pool and other water features, along with tennis, trail and playground improvements.
Another $4 million is tentatively marked for Silver Lake Park improvements, which would replace the pool with a water feature. Improvements also would be made to the park’s trails, skate park, playgrounds and shelters.
Widman said the city is conducting a survey related to parks and will be working to develop master plans for Silver Lake and Soldiers Field parks. Final amenities at each park could change based on community input.
A variety of other proposed improvements -- from $1.2 million for the Eastwood Golf Course clubhouse and parking lot to $75,000 to improve drainage at Northern Hills Golf Course -- also could be completed ahead of schedule.
Park Board President Linnea Archer said the accelerated plan would allow residents to see the benefits of the tax increase they supported last year.
“People like to see where the money is going,” she said.
Mike Nigbur, the city’s parks and forestry division head, said he started receiving calls shortly after the referendum passed, each requesting a specific project that wasn’t ready to be funded. .
It took time to develop a strategy for the funds that didn’t start generating until this year, but Nigbur acknowledged the plan would take time to produce big projects as reserves were created to pay for projects that exceeded the annual $2 million.
“It takes a long time to make your system better,” he said.
While half of the referendum funds would see a commitment of up to 20 years, Nigbur said the remaining $1 million would still be used for annual projects, including playground upgrades and natural resource management.
If approved during the city’s budget process, the goal for borrowing the $15 million through tax-abatement bonds is to start planning projects as early as next year, rather than waiting.
Even with the accelerated model, Nigbur said work wouldn’t start immediately because of staffing limitations and planning needs. He said the process would likely involve continued upgrades throughout several years.
“You still can’t do everything all in one shot,” he said.
A list of 10 proposed projects could be funded with $15 million that would be paid back with park referendum funds for up to 20 years.
The projects, which are subject to change, could begin as early as 2022. They are:
Soldiers Field: $7 million for a pool and other aquatics, tennis courts, trail, lighting, playground and shelter.
Silver Lake: $4 million for an aquatics feature, trail, skate park, playground and shelter.
- Eastwood Golf Club House: $1.2 million for parking lot paving.
Recreation Center: $750,0000 for locker rooms.
Silver Lake Station: $700,000 for improvements.
Martin Luther King Jr. Park: $500,000 for shelter, restroom and lighting.
Court Improvements: $375,000 for five court locations, including tennis, basketball and pickleball.
McQuillan Soccer Field: $300,000 for improvements.
Kutzky Tennis Club House: $100,000 for renovation.
Northern Hills: $75,000 for drainage.