MUNSTER – The Redevelopment Commission is exploring how to fund ongoing maintenance at Centennial Park and other municipal parks.
Clerk-Treasurer David Shafer told commissioners at a recent meeting that the State Board of Accounts frowns on using redevelopment funds generated by the tax increment financing district for park maintenance.
The SBA indicated in its report that redevelopment only included the acquisition of property for parks.
A maintenance agreement with Hubingers Landscaping for the ongoing Centennial Park maintenance this season led to the discussion by the Redevelopment Commission, whose members include the five Town Council members.
Town Manager Tom DeGiulio said the tax share for the Munster Parks Department has been reduced in the last few years to boost the town’s general fund. That has meant there’s less in the parks’ budget for maintenance, said DeGiulio who also is the parks department director.
Among the solutions to maintaining parks discussed by the Redevelopment Commission is the use of funds generated by the gas-to-electricity project now operating at Centennial Park. The revenue from selling electricity back to NIPSCO will go into the town’s electric fund.
Although that electric fund was originally established to help various operating funds within town government, DeGiulio said “it may be better to use the net revenue to support the Centennial Park operation, since the revenue is generated from Centennial.”
Town Attorney Eugene Feingold and Councilman John Reed, who is an attorney, said there is room for interpretation in the law governing redevelopment funds.
“If you establish parks, you have to be able to maintain them,” Reed said.
The Redevelopment Commission deferred any action on the maintenance agreement until town officials could meet with representatives from the State Board of Accounts.