County wants parks pact with city revised

Stuart worries about effect if joint agreement were to end

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County has informed the city of Vancouver that a joint agreement on parks and recreation operations must be reached within six months, or the county will consider going it alone.

Under the current deal between the county and city, the county sends $880,000 each year to the city-run department. While considered a joint department, the county essentially purchases services such as administration and planning from the city to help operate its parks and recreation programs.

Clark County commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke, both Republicans, have long considered a new deal to reduce the amount of services it purchases from the city.

They've also said they hope to see drastic savings in a new deal.

Commissioner Steve Stuart, a Democrat, has tentatively agreed in principle. But he's also concerned about the city's reaction to a declaration that the county may terminate the contract.

On Wednesday, as commissioners discussed final steps before sending the official notice, Stuart said he worried that ending the joint department will put the county's general fund at risk. Going it alone may be more costly, he said.

"We have to have the partner," Stuart said. "We can't dance alone."

Still, both sides seem to believe it won't come to that.

In the formal notice that Clark County Administrator Bill Barron delivered to Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes on Thursday, Barron writes: "This is to let you know, and to formally advise the city, that in order to better respond to our citizens' current needs for their parks, the county desires to revise the 2008 parks (interlocal agreement.) The county hopes to engage the city in a productive conversation that will lead to significant, mutually agreed upon amendment of the parks (interlocal agreement.)"

Holmes said he will share the information with the city council at its July 1 meeting.

"And if the council is willing to consider it," Holmes said, "I look forward to speaking with the county administrator on fashioning an agreement that meets our shared interests."

Before the county sent the notice, the city showed a willingness to cut some of the charges the county is accruing.

In March, county staff presented a proposal showing the city was amenable to cut $58,000 from the contract, which included reductions of funding for a director position and eliminating a business manager position.

On Wednesday, Public Works Director Pete Capell presented further concessions the city is willing to make.

Those cuts dropped the budget for the county down to $642,067 in 2014. The proposal included hiring freezes, a reduction in landscape architect services and a reduction in payment to other positions.

Madore said while the final offer was "a noble effort," he still wished to rework the agreement under the auspice of a termination date.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov ; erik.hidle@columbian.com.