Trumbull County Metropolitan Park District has placed a 0.6-mill, 10-year levy on the Nov. 8 ballot. If approved, the levy would generate about $2 million a year, and cost a property owner with a $100,000 property $21 a year, said Metroparks Executive Director Zachary Svette.
Metroparks currently is funded by a $120,000 allocation from the county commissioners. While it’s a major jump from $120,000 to $2 million, Svette said support of Metroparks is a quality of life issue. Other counties have park levies that have allowed the creation of new parks, recreation opportunities and green spaces, while Trumbull County can’t keep up with what it already has, Svette said.
“We’re falling behind by days, months and years,” said Svette, the only Metroparks employee. “The quality of life here in the county, we have to improve. We can’t do it with our current budget; we just can’t.”
The park’s holdings include Thomas A. Swift Metropark in Braceville and Warren Townships, the Western Reserve Greenway Bike Trail, which links Bloomfield and Downtown Warren, and Canoe City Metropark in Leavittsburg.
Metroparks also has been able to use state grants to purchase land for future development, such as Trock Forest in Brookfield, which currently is off-limits to all but limited hunting.
Although Metroparks receives funding from the county, it is independent of the county, which does not sit well with county Commissioner Niki Frenchko, who voted against allowing the levy to be placed on the ballot.
“I’m not happy with the leadership there,” she said. “I’m not happy with the board.”
Commissioner Frank Fuda said he supported the placing of the levy “so they could make progress.”
The Metroparks board has been unresponsive to resident concerns, particularly in the proposed removal of the Leavittsburg dam, Frenchko said. She also criticized what she perceives as a lack of a plan for use of the levy proceeds.
“The plan for the proposed levy is just to give the existing director there, I think it was like a three times raise,” Frenchko said. “There is no plan, aside from promoting this person, who has been kind of hanging in there and maintaining the status quo. I have concerns about that and personally oppose that for that reason.”
In terms of his salary, Svette replied, “My board has attached me to a pay scale. At least for the first year, we’re not anticipating any increases outside of the ones that are given to other county employees.”
He also countered that there is a plan for use of the levy proceeds. The board has these goals, he said: maintaining the parks that exist; developing undeveloped parks, such as Trock Forest; identifying new park sites; and offering to manage and maintain parks owned by local political subdivisions.
Svette released a proposed eight-year plan of projects. In the first year, Metroparks proposes to develop a plan for tree removal and replacement in Clarence Darrow Metropark in Champion; install a kiosk, picnic table and grill in Eastlake Metropark in Cortland; begin design of culvert replacements, paving and other upgrades on the Western Reserve Greenway; install a picnic table and grill at Sheridan Metropark in Bloomfield; design a trail system in Trock Forest; rehabilitate the Eagle Creek wetland garage; and identify capital purchases throughout the park inventory.
The plan is tentative in that consultants will have to be hired, particularly for design and engineering work, to bring certain projects to fruition, Svette said. “The priorities may change depending on what they find more serious once they start investigative work.”