The Lakewood City Council approved Monday night an agreement to operate Fort Steilacoom Park through 2011.
Pierce County leases the park from the state of Washington for about $1,500 a year, said Mary Dodsworth, city parks and recreation director, but it has had a separate operating agreement with the city since 2006. The old five-year agreement expired last month.
The one-year agreement reflects the desire expressed by Kathy Kravit-Smith, director of county Parks & Recreation Services, to eventually turn over full responsibillity of the park to the city. Her department no longer can afford to subsidize the operation of a park that her department considers as belonging to the city, she has said.
The county will contribute $150,000 to subsidize the park’s operation this year — $64,000 less than last year. The total operating budget for the park, which includes city and county more, is $403,000. The city will make up the difference.
City Manager Andrew Neiditz said Pierce County officials had discussed ending the subsidy altogether during negotiations.
Council members made clear they were approving the agreement with the understanding there would be a broader discussion about the future of county-owned properties within the city limits as both local governments grapple with limited budgets.
“This is strictly a placeholder, in my opinion, for one year to allow that discussion to continue,” City Manager Andrew Neiditz said.
There is a clause in the agreement that gives Lakewood first right of refusal if Pierce County wanted to transfer the park lease to another agency.
The vote was unanimous.
Earlier in the meeting, council members approved a five-year agreement to continue leasing space in the Lakewood Community Center, a county-owned building, for its senior activity center. The community center also is the headquarters of the county parks and recreation department.
Council approved the agreement after being assured by Neiditz that he would only sign the agreement if there was an “escape clause” that allowed either party to end the agreement early with written notice.
The vote was 6-1. Councilman Michael Brandstetter voted no after questioning the need to enter into a long-term agreement, even with an escape clause, while the city’s master development plan for parks and recreation is still being drafted.