Where to Spend: Roads or Parks?

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City roads in bad shape: It's among the biggest problems problems St. Johns faces, according to city commissioner Bill Jackson.

So bad, he says, the city shouldn't even think about spending tens of thousands of dollars on parks before it fixes the roads.

Jackson took out an ad in a local paper, saying, "It is a mystery to me, and I'm sure to most of you, why we need to spend $120,000 to $140,000 on City parks when our streets are in such poor shape."

He's talking about the city's plan to use a combination of city, state and private dollars to upgrade neighborhood parks, like the one on Kibbee Street. The plan was approved by the council, with the city likely to spend the money later this year or in early 2007.

"We want to attract young families to the community. We want to attract new people," St. Johns Mayor Dana Beaman said.

Beaman says parks are key to bringing those new people in and keeping current residents.

"Eighty percent of the people [in a city survey] said recreation is very important to them," he said.

Still, the mayor says based on what he's heard, the city is split 50/50 on the current parks funding issue.

Blake Anthes, who lives in St Johns, says he knows the roads need work. He serves on a citizen road repair panel. Anthes says the $60,000 to $70,000 city or private share of the park money doesn't come close to the money needed to fix the city's roads.

"We're looking at $10, $15 maybe $20 million," Anthes said.

Money others say can only be found down the road, if the city saves its money now.