Proposal to expand city staff

Everett mayor pitches youth recreation, other positions

By KATE REARDON

Herald Writer

EVERETT — When he was just 11 years old, little Eddie Hansen played ball under the lights at Riverdale Park. The field, which no longer exists, was the home of the Blue Jays semi-pro baseball team.

Now, as mayor of Everett, Hansen believes playing sports as a kid teaches many things.

"There’s so many lessons that kids can learn through sports," he said. It teaches teamwork, competing fairly, how to get along and goal setting.

Because of his convictions, Hansen is proposing a new city staff position that would coordinate recreational activities, including a summer youth baseball and softball program, for the city’s newest parks and ball fields.

"I want to provide a comprehensive summer baseball and softball program for our youth," Hansen said Wednesday in his 2001 budget address.

The baseball and softball program would operate after Little League season ends in early summer, giving kids an opportunity to play organized ball all summer long.

The coordinator could recruit volunteer coaches, organize clinics, schedule summer competition and organize other summer activities.

"This person would be asked to organize a variety of programs," Hansen said. "We’ve got some great facilities in the city, and we’re going to have more of them next year. We’re saying now that we have these new fields, let’s make sure we take maximum advantage of these fields and make them available for the kids."

The parks job is one of 13.4 new positions proposed in the mayor’s 2001 budget. The general operating budget is proposed at $91.8 million, and the total budget is $383 million.

The mayor’s budget also includes no increase in property taxes.

On Nov. 8, the city council will hold a public hearing on the budget, which outlines future projects including road improvements, a study for a future arena/convention center and other parks projects.

The city council has until the end of the year to adopt a budget.

Looking to 2001, the city also will focus on plans for a special events arena, development on city property along the Snohomish River and street work along Colby and Hewitt avenues.

Hansen also said the city must be prepared to deal with the unknown, such as the outcome and possible effects of citizen initiatives on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Careful budgeting allows for the proposed parks position and vision for a youth baseball and softball program, said Dale Preboski, city spokeswoman.

"While it’s really important that we do the infrastructure, we also deal with quality-of-life issues," she said. "I think the positive thing is that it shows the emphasis that we’re trying to make, and we’re taking some leadership in the area, too."

Crews are building four city ball fields at CSR Associated in southwest Everett. A second phase of that park project could include more soccer fields and trails.

The city also will begin a major planning process for 300 acres of city property near Lowell by the Snohomish River. Soccer fields, other athletic fields, a junior golf facility, trails and open space are all being considered.

And in north Everett, crews have added lights to ball fields at Legion Park and also will make drainage improvements by as early as next summer.

Preboski said the city receives a lot of calls regarding youth activities and ball fields.

"There are a lot of people out there who are trying to do wonderful things for kids.," she said. "Whatever we can do to provide positive role models for the kids in Everett, I think we’re very anxious to do that."

Tom Cox, president of north Everett Little League, said hundreds of boys and girls ages 5 to 18 play in the north and south Little League programs each year in Everett.

"I think it’s just another opportunity for kids to play during the summer months," he said of Hansen’s proposal. "Some kids just love to play ball."

Cox said he didn’t feel a new program would take away from Little League.

"We’re really the only thing in town," he said.

New fields should be used to the maximum, Cox said.

"If we’ve got those great resources, let’s use them."

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