MARYVILLE, Mo. — A 1/8-cent sales tax for Maryville Parks and Recreation will sunset at the end of the month, but MPR Director Jeff Stubblefield said his organization plans to bring a replacement to the ballot soon.
The expiring tax was approved in 2000 to fund the construction of the Maryville Community Center, which Stubblefield said will be fully paid off sometime in 2022.
MPR had hoped to have a new master plan in place by the time the tax was set to sunset on March 31, but the COVID-19 pandemic slowed what was already a tight timeline.
The new master plan, perhaps the first in MPR’s history, was delivered to board members at the group’s regular meeting on Monday.
The plan, the product of months of inspections, studies and surveys carried out by multiple consultants, makes recommendations for the near, mid and long terms, with higher priority items put into the shorter terms.
Overall, the plan mostly calls for overhauls and improvements to existing facilities and parks based on feedback collected from multiple community surveys that saw a high volume of responses. Park improvements would range from added playground attractions to better drainage to meeting ADA standards at each location. Walking trails would also be added to several parks under the plan’s recommendations.
At the Maryville Aquatic Center, the plan recommends the addition of a universal changing room — sometimes called a family changing room, some infrastructure maintenance items and the possible addition of a spray ground area.
“What we need to do is start taking the projects that we want to do, and prioritize them,” Stubblefield said of the board’s next step. “And once we prioritize them, then we’ve got to figure out, OK, how are we going to do this?”
Any major project from the master plan, which provides a blueprint for the next 5-10 years of parks objectives, would likely require a separate funding mechanism, like another sales tax or a bond issue, and would have even in a year where MPR wasn’t hit hard by the pandemic.
Unlike many other governmental organizations that receive funding from sales or property taxes that have been less affected by the pandemic, MPR generates a good portion of its revenue through the community center and other activity fees. Attendance, although it has risen significantly over the past few months, has not returned to its pre-2020 levels.
Stubblefield said that MPR’s 2020 revenues were about $175,000 lower than the previous five-year average. Some of those revenues, he said, will likely be eligible to be recouped through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
The addition of the annual rise in minimum wage in Missouri, up from $9.45 in 2020 to $10.30 in 2021, hasn’t helped matters, Stubblefield said. Coupled together, he said MPR will likely have to re-evaluate its fee structures soon.
Stubblefield said MPR is working with the New Nodaway Humane Society on a grant to fund improvements necessary for a dog park, though the process is in its beginning stages.
The two organizations have talked off and on about the possibility of a dog park with increased frequency over the past few years, but land, liability and maintenance responsibilities have kept the two from coming close to an agreement.
Stubblefield said that MPR Aquatics and Events Supervisor Maggie Rockwood, a strong proponent of partnerships between MPR and the humane society, has been appointed to the humane society’s board and will spearhead cooperation between the two organizations.
Other MPR notes
- Revenue from fees at the community center were down nearly $10,000 in February from February 2020.
- Stubblefield said he expects the Thomson Splash ‘N’ Play will be open by the time school is out, but was hesitant to give an exact date. He said the park’s asphalt parking lot will be the first asphalt laid as part of the South Main Corridor Improvement Project. At a tourism committee meeting last week, City Manager Greg McDanel said he hoped the facility would be ready for use by the end of April.
- The Dog Gone Easter Bone Hunt fundraiser for the New Nodaway Humane Society is scheduled for April 17. Registration begins at 1:30 p.m. and the hunt begins at 2 p.m. Entry fee is $5 or 4 cans of dog food per dog.
- The first Spring Craft and Vendor Fair is set for May 8 at Beal Park. The outdoor edition of the annual Christmas Craft and Vendor Fair was scheduled after significant interest from vendors.