Parks and Neighborhoods Committee recap: Parks saves taxpayer money, Levy Oversight committee spends it wisely



We held the first meeting of the new Parks and Neighborhoods committee Thursday, January 19, 2012. See the meeting agenda.

Volunteers are the heart of the Parks system. Here children plant native plants at Magnuson Park.

Our committee attendance was VERY small, due to icy conditions on the roads.  I missed our usual crowd, but I’m glad people were wise and stayed warm and safe at home.

One important note for those who might be looking for emergency shelter:  I confirmed with our Human Services Department that the Rainier Room at Seattle Center provides shelter for people, including their well-mannered pets for overnight shelter during this extreme weather.   I am told that every shelter accepts service animals.

Parks highlight – saving energy, water, and money!

Christopher Williams was the designated hitter for David Broustis, Parks’ Utility Conservation Manager, to deliver the Parks Highlight.

David was tasked a number of years ago to strategically reduce Parks’ use of water, and make our Parks facilities more energy efficient.  Over the past few years, David has been remarkably successful.  I was pleased to hear that Parks recently celebrated bringing in its 1 millionth conservation rebate dollar.

The rebate dollars come from Puget Sound Energy, Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, and result from 59 energy and water conservation projects Parks has completed over the past five years. These projects continue to save Parks more than $1.5 million each year on utilities.

In 2006, Parks evaluated the $6 million spent on utilities to see where they could save money. They found outdated equipment, parks where irrigation systems were overwatering landscapes, and buildings that were heated at night.

Parks invested in high efficiency boilers, variable speed fans that ramp down at night, toilets that perform exceptionally well with less water, and sensors that shut down irrigation systems when it rains.

Parks workers also installed lights in playfields across the city that reduce energy use by 40% and integrate shielded fixtures to keep light away from neighbors and the sky.

Great work on saving money and going green at the same time, Parks!

Superintendent’s Report

 

  1.  Mighty Volunteers : Christopher Williams gave us an overview of some impressive Parks statistics including this one about our volunteers:  In 2011, 40,000 volunteers contributed 362,000 hours to the Parks system, doing everything from coaching to blackberry removal to reforestation. That’s the equivalent of 226 full time employees, a 20% increase in productivity over what Parks is actually staffed for.  Thanks to everyone who makes our Parks places we love to see and visit.
  2. Vandals attack Beaver Pond Trees:  Recently, vandals at the Beaver Pond natural area aggressively “pruned” more than 50 trees, cutting branches from the lowest 10 feet of the trees.  Arborists believe that many of the trees will die within two or three years as a result.   This is shameful.  The trees were planted by volunteers working to restore the area. Parks has filed a police report destruction of the trees.  The department is working with the Seattle Police Department’s North Precinct to address safety issues in the natural area and to identify those responsible for the cutting.
  3. Polar Bear Plunge.  I asked Christopher if he’d participated in the January 1 Polar Bear Plunge. Thousands of celebrants met at Magnuson Park and Matthews Beach to take the New Yeare’s Day dunk in Lake Washington.   Christopher queried why I wasn’t there.  The challenge is on.  I  told him I’d do it next year if he would. You can find his full report here.

Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee Reappointments

We reappointed six generous and capable people to the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee.   I’m grateful to the following dedicated individuals for continuing to serve on this committee:

  • Bruce Bentley, who brings 33 years in the recycling and waste management industry to the committee, sits on Southwest Community Center Advisory Council, and who has served as Chair of the Park Board.
  • William P. Brosseau, who contributes 20 years experience human resources and natural resources management and is currently Field Operations Director with EarthCorps.
  • Dennis Canty, now the Regional Director of American Farmland Trust, who previously ran an environmental consulting firm that helped get funding for fish and wildlife restoration.
  • Shanon Kearney, who has dual masters degrees in landscape architecture and in regional planning, and, perhaps even more important for sitting on a Seattle commission, experience in dispute resolution and mediation.
  • Pete Spalding, recipient of People’s Choice award from City Club because he’s such an active volunteer for so many organizations, and who has served on the City Neighborhood Council and the Delridge Neighborhood District Council.
  • Beth Purcell, a former Parks employee and landscape architect who helped develop the Levy and who now sits on the Board of the Parks Foundation.

The Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee advises the Acting Superintendent, Mayor, and City Council to help ensure successful implementation and fiscal responsibility for the projects and programs included in the levy.

By the way, the public is encouraged to attend the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee meetings – there’s a public comment period at each meeting. The next meeting of the Oversight Committee will be Monday, January 23, 2012. The meeting is from 7-9p.m. at the Parks Headquarters at 100 Dexter Avenue N. Seattle WA 98109.

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