Yelm City Council members were briefed on the final cost of construction for the new Yelm City Park splash pad and play structure during a work session Aug. 7, and some were not pleased that the administration used additional city funds without a vote.
Combined, the projects cost just over $1 million.
In addition to a $305,019 federal Community Development Block Grant and $239,590 from the state capital budget, city staff also used $363,375 in city street, water and sewer capital funds toward the project, a financial move some council members said they would have liked to have seen put to a vote.
The 2019-2020 budget for the project had been $641,984.
During the meeting, Councilmember Molly Carmody said she was frustrated to see the executive branch allocate money from capital city project funds without providing an update to the council.
While funding for the splash pad project had been discussed in smaller committees, Carmody and fellow Councilmember Joe DePinto said the council hadn’t received a budget update since they approved the project bid in March.
“I think that the entire council deserves to know how much money you’re spending on these funds. And you didn’t come to council and ask, and we didn’t authorized this,” Carmody said. “Any kind of budget amendment needs to be voted on by council.”
A presentation drafted by Public Works Director Chad Bedlington showed the city acquired about $544,600 in grants to fund the splash pad portion and new play equipment.
The city funds were used for new sidewalks, a recirculating water system and a backwash tank, among other expenses necessary to the project’s overall function.
In total, the final cost of the park upgrades and splash pad was $1,005,359.
Mayor JW Foster said as upgrades for the city park and pad came in, it became clear that they needed to complete them all at the same time because it would be cheaper.
Foster said staff could have done a better job of forecasting the total project price. He said they will do a better job of forecasting future projects to the council and public.
“Despite what the council is insinuating, most of the upgrades were talked about in one committee or another, but never brought up for the council’s blessing,” Foster said. “Sure, it cost $1 million. But it cost the city $400,000 … I’m super pleased with how the community has taken these use of funds and couldn’t have been happier with the end result of the project.”
DePinto said the council should have had a say in the use of city money.
“It was a lot more money than we were told ... It’s a good project though ... We just need to learn from our mistakes,” DePinto said. “I just wish the method was a little more transparent.”
DePinto said the finance committee was updated on the price of the splash pad project about a month ago, and that’s when he learned that it would cost over $1 million.