Ward 1 concerns

Fort Dodge City Councilman Mark Taylor on Saturday updated residents on council activity in the last 12 months and outlined his plans for the next 12. Those plans include saving the city money by selling local parks.

Speaking at a Ward 1 meeting at the Fort Dodge Public Library, Taylor said he would favor selling both the unused Sunkissed Meadow Golf Course and Phinney Park, the only two he specifically named.

“We have a lot of parks we can’t maintain that cost us a lot of money,” he said. “I’d like to see us get rid of some of the parks we have now.”

He suggested the land would be more productive in private hands.

“Lets sell it to the private sector and put it back on the tax rolls,” he said.

Taylor cited Phinney Park because of its low usage, deteriorating trails and the cost to mow it.

He’s aware that selling parks is a controversial suggestion.

“I’m going to get beat up when we start talking specific parks,” he told the 40 people gathered to hear his comments.

Taylor isn’t in favor of eliminating all the city parks, he said, but he would like to see money saved directed to other park projects, such as repairing the closed road through Loomis Park.

He began Saturday’s meeting by updating residents on some of the street improvement projects in his ward, including the First Avenue North reconstruction project, which is slated to begin this spring.

And he touted the Windstone Circle building project as a success.

“This is really good growth for our end of town,” he said.

Taylor said he’s looking for incentives for growth along the northwest corridor.

“The Ag Park has presented us with a great opportunity to spur growth,” he said.

That growth in his ward, in turn, means people will spend more throughout the community.

“Fort Dodge is where we need to try to capture these people,” he said, “right at the corner of 169 and Starlite Road.”

Taylor commented that the lack of schools in his ward hurts it.

“It’s very detrimental to the property values and the quality of life,” he said.

With an eye toward the future, Taylor said he’d like to see more commercial, retail and residential development on the west side.

“I’d like to get a grocery store on that end of town,” he said. “We have the demographics to support it.”

Dan Lewandowksi, of Fort Dodge, asked about street repairs and how those projects are prioritized, particularly Hawkeye Avenue.

“We have limited tax dollars,” Taylor responded, admitting, “a lot of those streets haven’t been maintained for decades.”

He also talked about his proposed Payment in Lieu of Tax – PILOT – program that allows non-profit property owners, such as churches, to pay a voluntary fee to the city. The money would be used for fire and police protection.

Taylor said that might be a tough sell.

“I don’t know if I’ll get anywhere with it,” he said.

Jacque Johanson, of Fort Dodge, confronted Taylor when he asked for a show of hands in support of the Crosstown Connector project.

“I thought the Crosstown Connector was a dead issue,” Johanson said. “Now you’re bringing this up as another issue.”

While an agreement is in place, Taylor, an opponent of the project, explained that he will be voting on various contracts and bids for the project and that he asked to get a feel for how those at the meeting felt.

“We didn’t approve it, but we didn’t kill it either,” he said. “That’s why I asked the question.”