Vermilion has a fairly extensive park system, but according to city officials those places of nature and recreation are in need of work.
To get the parks fixed, the city has asked voters to approve a 1-mill levy, which appears on the ballot as Issue 24. It would generate $269,026 annually and be dedicated to park maintenance and expanding recreation programs. It would be a continuing levy, which means it would remain in place permanently without having to be renewed by voters in the future.
Given the importance of parks and recreation in any community, the $35 per year that the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay seems like a reasonable request.
"We just think it's really important we have nice parks and recreational facilities," Vermilion Mayor Eileen Bulan has said, also noting that parks are one of the things people look at when considering a move to a community.
The park system offers a variety of options, including a skateboard park, playground equipment at some parks, basketball hoops, tennis courts and other amenities at the Sailorway Complex, which is operated in partnership with Vermilion Schools, and beaches along the shoreline of Lake Erie. It total, it has 18 parks and four beaches spread over 56 acres, the mayor told us.
Bulan said the parks already have one levy in place, a continuing capital improvements levy first passed in 1963 that brought in $116,553 last year. That money can be used only on purchases that will last five years or more.
While that levy covers the major work and expansion needs of the park system, it doesn't provide the funds to pay for routine maintenance or for recreational programs, Bulan said.
That leaves the city reliant on its general fund to bolster the parks and recreation budget to the tune of $155,743 in 2016. As in all municipalities, money can get tight in Vermilion. Bulan said the lack of dedicated funding has left the parks system largely reliant on part-time workers and volunteers to handle the upkeep.
She said the city has a part-time parks maintenance director and a part-time recreation director. If the levy passes, she said, the maintenance director position would become full time.
Bulan also said the city would be able to expand its recreation programs beyond the baseball, football and basketball programs currently offered.
Work also would be done on a variety of parks, including needed repairs to the city's community swimming pool and the skateboard park, Bulan said.
In short, the levy would improve the parks, bolster recreational opportunities and in general make Vermilion a more pleasant place to live and visit.
It's a reasonable request and worth the relatively low price a property owner would pay.