BY ANN McCREARY
A proposal to create a parks and recreation district in the Methow Valley will wait until fall of 2014 to go to the voters.
Proponents of the district announced last week they won’t try to get the measure on this fall’s ballot because of timing and technical issues.
Fred Wert and Jay Lucas, local residents who are spearheading the effort to create a parks and recreation district, said that after meeting with Okanogan County election officials, they realized it’s not possible to meet deadlines to get the proposal on this November’s election ballot.
“In addition, the county prosecutor felt there was some weakness in the language of the petition that may not hold up to a challenge. We will be working on correcting the petition language and working towards a November 2014 election cycle,” Wert and Lucas said in an email.
The district backers began collecting signatures on petitions last month asking county commissioners to authorize creation of a parks and recreation district with the same boundaries as the Methow Valley School District. They have withdrawn the petitions to make corrections to the language, Lucas said this week.
Although the process has been delayed, Lucas said proponents of the district will use the next year to develop a needs assessment that will be useful to the parks and recreation district commissioners, who would be elected by voters in November 2014.
Funding for the district would come through an annual property tax levy “similar to the EMS levies and require 60 percent approval by voters,” according to information prepared by the district proponents. The amount of the levy would be set by the district commissioners.
A special taxing district would support parks and recreation facilities and programs throughout the valley, and provide a more equitable and dependable source of funding for recreation opportunities, Wert and Lucas said. The burden of funding most recreation facilities in the Methow Valley currently falls mainly on the towns of Winthrop and Twisp.
Both Winthrop and Twisp town councils recently voted to approve formation of a parks and recreation district to include their towns.