September 19, 2014

Standish officials wary of Children’s Park takeover

Prison could reopen by November if state approves

Posted

STANDISH — No decision was made by the Standish City Council June 17 on an offer by the county to hand over maintenance of Children’s Park to the city, but officials debated if the city was in a financial position to handle the added workload.

City Manager Curt Hillman said he had received a letter from the county parks board saying that the county would need to close down the park unless the city took over maintaining and mowing it, due to budgetary issues.

Hillman thought that would not be possible, given the city’s own financial constraints, though he acknowledged he did not know what the added cost of cutting the park’s grass would be.

“They tried to get the city to take it over a while ago, but we’re in a financial situation now where the county’s overall taxable value went up, and ours went down,” Hillman said.

Councilwoman Tosha Tunney said she believed the city would probably only need to pay for gasoline as long as its workers did the mowing during their normal hours.

Hillman said the letter also mentioned that the swing equipment did not meet OSHA safety standards, but added that removing the equipment was the county’s concern, not the city’s.

The county is interested in closing the park as a cost-saving measure, as parks board member Joe Sancimino told the Independent that it required more maintenance than the other parks it controls and is a revenue loser.

Hillman said the matter of the park was one that would need to be discussed more going forward, but added that he has seen people using the park.

“Last night, I saw people using it at the pavilion,” Hillman said. “So it is being used.”

“It’s unfortunate that it may get closed and overgrown, but the money is not in the budget,” Mayor Mark Winslow said.

Hillman also reported an update regarding the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility. The state is interested in reopening the prison as a privately-run facility, and has been collecting Request for Proposals (RFPs) from businesses who believe they can run it cheaper than the state could.

The deadline for the RFPs is July 11, and Hillman said he had heard from Carl Nink with MTC Corporation, one of the groups that has submitted a proposal. Hillman said he had heard from Nink that his company would need roughly 90 days to open the prison, and with an expected opening date of Nov. 1, Hillman expected to hear something in August.

“The guy was fairly certain, though not 100 percent, since this is with the state, but confident that their proposal would be picked, and the prison would be operational by Nov. 1,” Hillman said.

A reopened prison would bring additional revenue to the city, and Hillman believed it would be able to reduce water rates for residents, as well as provide jobs to the area. In the past, he has cautioned that the state may only be collecting proposals and may ultimately decide to keep the prison closed.

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