Oakley City Council on Tuesday held off cutting funding for maintenance of four parks at local schools.
Staff had recommended the city stop spending $150,000 annually for the Oakley School District’s maintenance of four parks on school district land, which were developed some three decades ago. The parks include those adjacent to Oakley, Gehringer, Vintage Park elementary schools and O’Hara Park Middle School.
According to the staff report, the maintenance of these park areas did not meet city standards and expectations set forth in the agreement. Residents were often confused about who is responsible for the park areas and the city frequently received messages about concerns with the safety and condition of these park areas, the report said.
But, after hearing many complaints on social media and via email, the council unanimously agreed to hold off on a decision, with Councilman Kevin Romick moving to continue the matter.
Romick said the city needs more time to discuss and research the issue, while Councilman Randy Pope called for the formation of two-member city and school district subcommittees to further study the matter.
“I don’t know if giving them more time would resolve this, but hopefully that would result in some resolution,” Pope said.
The affected parks were developed more than three decades ago before the city was incorporated. That’s when the school district, which owned the land, allowed the county to develop parks adjacent to their schools. In turn, Contra Cost County established an agreement with the school district to provide money for the parks’ maintenance. After the city’s incorporation, the county agreement was transferred to the city and renewed in 2002, according to the city staff report.
“We were all one small community back then,” Bob Kratina, a longtime Oakley resident and former Oakley Union School District board member, said before the meeting. “We wanted baseball and soccer fields — and said, ‘let’s work together.’”
Kratina, who also is a former member of the parks and recreation committee, recalls that more than 30 years earlier the then-unincorporated area had no parks and no money to purchase land in the area to build them.
At the time there were only two schools and the community was growing like weeds,” he said.
“…The school district had land and was willing (to allow parks to be developed)…but did not have funds to build and maintain parks because it would have had to come out of the general education funds. The couldn’t use education funds to do that.”
The Oakley Union School District has since offered to lease the land back to the city for $1 a year and have the city maintain the parks.
The city, meanwhile, maintained on a post on its Facebook page, that its “priority is that these school parks be maintained at the same standard of the other parks in the city — one that allows the parks to be usable, safe and enjoyable.”
According to the city staff report, the four parks “are arguably no longer needed by the city, are not well-maintained, and the funds currently sent to the district can be much better utilized with the park and landscape areas the city must maintain – providing a greater benefit to the community.”
Several hours before Tuesday’s meeting, the city of Oakley posted more than 30 photographs showing wear and tear, and in some cases, unsafe conditions at the four affected parks, including broken playground equipment, rusted, broken water fountains and benches, frayed ropes and cracked pavement. Structure replacement, according to the 2002 agreement, is the school district’s responsibility, though the district has said it has no money for such improvements.
Though a number of park proponents attended Tuesday’s meeting, none spoke to the council because the matter was tabled. Oakley Union School Elementary School Superintendent Greg Hetrick did not return calls for comment either.
Source: East Bay Oakley holds off on cutting park maintenance funds