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story.lead_photo.caption A JC Parks sign is pictured Tuesday May 21, 2019 on a wall inside The Linc. Photo by Sally Ince / News Tribune.

The Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission is moving forward on bonds that will help implement its 20-year parks system master plan.

On Tuesday, the commission recommended the Special Obligations Improvement Bonds — which would primarily be payable out of the half-cent parks sales tax — ordinance and resolution be sent to the Jefferson City Finance Committee and Jefferson City Council.

The city plans to issue $7 million-$8 million in Special Obligation Bonds "at a competitive public sale," according to the resolution. The City Council approved the city's financial advisor and city's bond counsel to prepare the ordinance and resolution in August.

"We're committing half a million dollars to debt service annually from the parks tax," Jefferson City Associate Counselor Bryan Wolford said. "You guys have to make sure it is in parks budget every year to pay for this debt service."

If the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry's budget does not cover the bond, the Jefferson City Council has the authority to utilize parks sales taxes to cover the fund, he added.

Parks Director Todd Spalding said he and the commissioners are excited to move the project forward.

In other business, Parks Management Analyst Tina Werner told the commission the department's expenses exceeded revenues by $968,223.

Spalding reminded the commissioners he was pleased with where they are. The department anticipates being close to a balanced budget by the end of the year, he added.

"I think we're looking pretty good because this is typically what happens toward the end of the fiscal year," Spalding said. "Expenses are always above revenues. As you recall, we've had a lot of pink sheet items this year. We've spent, as you can see, a lot of that upfront. We talked at length about it today. We feel pretty good about where we're at because we pushed the end of the envelope this year."

The department has approximately $26,175 in tornado and flood material expenses, Werner said.

The city met with department heads and is working to make claims with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the State Emergency Management Agency, Spalding said.

Ward 1 Councilman David Kemna said the city expects to receive up to 75 percent reimbursement from claims.

Also on Tuesday, long-term plans of a potential botanical garden and arboretum at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park were discussed.

Spalding will meet with Cary Gampher, of The Architects Alliance, next week to continue exploring preliminary designs for the garden. Initial ideas include incorporating the old caretaker's house on site and getting the community involved with memorial gifts and donations.

The department would also consider having an individual with a strong background in botanical gardens to assist with the project.

The Architects Alliance worked on designing The Linc, as well as proposed improvements to McClung and Ellis-Porter Riverside parks.

Commissioner Bill Plank said he is in favor of the concept of a botanical garden with a community feel.

"I don't want to create this botanical garden, put Master Gardeners on it and say, 'This is beyond your capability now. Don't touch it," Plank said. "I want to be very clear that it has a community feel to it. That they are very invested in it. That it is their garden at the end that we're helping facilitate their vision."

Commissioner Chris Leuckel said the organization was looking forward to the collaboration.

"If you envision walking through the garden out towards the point where the trees pull back and you're overlooking the river, that opportunity is pretty neat," Leuckel said. "Not to mention what we're doing with the rest of the park."

Preliminary plans could take 60-90 days, Spalding said.

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