A divided Camas City Council has pulled the plug on a contract to create a citywide sports field management and expansion plan.
Earlier this month, Camas Parks and Recreation Director Trang Lam told the council about a $124,880 contract with Mackay Sposito to create that plan. Funding was included in the 2023-24 Camas Parks and Recreation budget the council approved in December 2022.
“This will help us figure out our (sports field) priorities and projects we should work on,” Lam said, adding that the consultant would complete the sports field plan by May 2024, in time to apply for the next round of state grants. Lam was instrumental in securing $2.25 million in state grant funding for three Camas parks and recreation projects earlier this year.
A few council members questioned the need for the plan at the Oct. 2 meeting. Councilwoman Jennifer Senescu said she recognizes “people want the maintenance,” but asked “If we’re adding new sports fields, why not look at a (swimming) pool instead of a sports field?”
Councilman Don Chaney asked Lam if she was proposing a consultant contract for the sports field plan “because, I assume, you don’t have adequate staff or skillset to do this in-house?”
“Yes,” Lam responded, adding that the consultant would also be able to “focus on synthetic fields to better understand what that would take and cost.”
Councilwoman Bonnie Carter said that as a school district employee she knows there is “a high demand for practice fields and courts” in Camas.
“I’m happy to see this and to see a plan for maintenance,” Carter said, adding that she was glad to know the sports field plan planning would also help the city better capitalize on “grants and partnerships that come along.”
A few of the council members who opposed the contract cited the city’s recent revenue shortfall, which has forced Mayor Steve Hogan to propose pausing the hiring of 22 new staff positions, including eight firefighters, two police officers, two police sergeants, a parks project manager and three street maintenance positions.
“When I saw the (mayor’s proposed 2024 budget) didn’t include anything for police sergeants, firefighters, police officers, I couldn’t think consultation for sports fields at this time is a good use of our resources,” Senescu said Monday, adding that she plans to make the same argument for a library contract expected to come before the council next month. “I would love to see them happen at a later time. But right now it comes down to (police) sergeants or consultation on sports fields.”
Lam said that, unlike the ongoing staffing costs that have been pulled from the mayor’s proposed 2024 budget, the sports field contract was a one-time dollar amount that would help Camas evaluate fees that could offset the city’s parks maintenance costs.
Council member Don Chaney said he knew the city “needs to do the study,” but said he also believed it could wait.
“I’m not sure the timing is right,” Chaney said Monday.
Council member Tim Hein agreed. “I understand the importance of it,” Hein said. “My concern is the timing … Even if we can just buy a few months until we see what the budget looks like. It’s not the project that concerns me; it’s the timing.”
Other council members supported approval of the sports field plan contract.
“I know some of our fields are in poor condition … and it’s time for us to take a look at them and start moving forward,” Councilman John Nohr, who was appointed to the council in October 2022, said Monday.
When a roll-call vote was taken, the council rejected the sports field plan contract 4-3, with Marilyn Boerke, Carter and Nohr voting to approve the sports field plan contract and Chaney, Hein, Leslie Lewallen and Senescu voting against it.