Man calls for a grand jury investigation of Measure S |

Man calls for a grand jury investigation of Measure S

With a citizen’s latest appeal for a grand jury inquiry, on-and-off scrutiny of the Measure S recreation initiative has continued.

Jim Lario of Meyers said Tuesday he wrote a letter to the 2005-06 El Dorado County grand jury urging it to look into Tahoe Paradise Park. The park located near the Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School receives funding for improvements from the Measure S Joint Powers Agreement. The JPA is run by representatives of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County and the park improvement district.

Current grand jury foreman Doug Clough of Pollock Pines said Tuesday that he hadn’t received the letter, but former foreman Michael Crowley said he “never felt comfortable” with Measure S.

More than 50,000 parcel owners pay $18 a year in property taxes for the recreation facilities. The county has collected $600,000 annually over a five-year period from the $6.5 million initiative that passed September 2000.

Like others who have called or written letters to the editor to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Lario wants better access at the park. Last summer, he attended an organization’s picnic there and discovered the restrooms were closed. A longtime park goer, he claims they’ve been closed at other times.

The restrooms are now under construction until July.

“The restrooms are not generally open to the public unless there’s been an arrangement made. And we do rent it out,” said Debbie Henderson, chairman of the board of directors for Tahoe Paradise Park.

“If it’s stated as a public facility, why isn’t it open?” Lario asked. “The feedback I get from neighbors is it’s a public park since Measure S. I think it was run better before Measure S.”

Lario also contends Lake Baron at the park is too shallow for boats, which he’s noticed have operated there.

“It’s killed the fish,” he said.

Matters concerning access to the park were addressed recently by Tahoe Paradise board member Michael Clark, who’s been aware of some criticism from nearby residents.

“We welcome all participation. But I think it’s disingenuous of any citizen demanding an audit or investigation without coming to a board member and asking questions,” he said.

Clark stated about a month ago the park had to be temporarily closed in January when the area became flooded.

Otherwise, Clark said he’s received many “positive comments on how good the park is looking.” And it hasn’t come easy.

Clark said that even with $229,631 up front and $50,000 for five years thereafter the Tahoe Paradise Park district has also run out of money. After putting in playground equipment and road improvements, there’s not enough to fix the dam at the lake. Only about $16,000 remains.

It has also applied for permits with the county to install cabinets, a sink and countertops in the recreation hall. At this point, these improvements might take a while, but they need a grant to complete.

“We’ll need another source (of funding). Stuff is so expensive,” he said. “It wasn’t that we squandered the money, it’s that things cost more than we expect.”

Running out of money and space

JPA staff consultant John Upton said it hasn’t been easy from the beginning for Measure S – as early as getting absolute buy-in from the community.

“I think the community wished the bike trails went down faster,” Upton said, listing one issue that has come up. A 500-foot, paved bike trail off Al Tahoe next to the new athletic field is intended to eventually connect with the 9-mile link from Meyers to South Lake Tahoe.

Beyond the bike trails being built at a slow pace, the ice arena is operating at a deficit and the community grew impatient over the building of the ballfields off Al Tahoe Boulevard.

When it became clear a synthetic soccer field would be built, the JPA took criticism in the community again since four “athletic fields” were promised in the language of the ballot.

“It was long overdue,” said Manny Morales, a soccer team manager and goalie.

Morales has enjoyed the addition off Al Tahoe but wonders if the demand is being met. On Monday night, three teams were scheduled, and four showed up.

“You just have to make space,” he said. “It would be great to see a second field or even the (South Tahoe) Middle School cleaned up.”

He advocates the change to a synthetic field because less injuries on the joints occur, he indicated.

And some thought they would be baseball venues on grass.

“We get four times the play on these fields as grass,” city Parks Superintendent Steve Weiss said. JPA funds bought a sweeper to clear the field from storm debris. Weiss pointed out the community did receive a full time baseball venue with the Babe Ruth field at South Tahoe Middle School.

Now as it turns out, there’s not enough money to build a second field.

Weiss explained the city was forced to provide buffer zones for nearby South Tahoe Public Utility District, Lake Tahoe Community College, California Tahoe Conservancy and the road. The space shrunk, and the funds ran out.

“When we put things together, we had less space. And the money didn’t go as far,” he said, adding that even the restrooms will have to be constructed with a volunteer force.

When the city built the 38,000-square-foot ice arena for $4.3 million off Rufus Allen Boulevard, some believed it would be self-sustaining by now. It’s operating about $50,000 in the red.

Tahoe Paradise Resort Improvement District meeting

May 18, 5:30 p.m.

1011 East San Bernardino Ave.

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