City proposes $22 million in projects

Final vote to be March 18


Noah Orloff

Senior National Honors Society public relations officer Ilsa Olsen signs kids off Oct. 19 at the Westwood Hills Nature Center Halloween party. The Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of designing a new building for the Westwood Hills Nature Center.

Maggie Klaers and Dani Orloff

Split Rock Studios exhibit designer Amanda Wambach said the Westwood Hills Nature Center renovations are intended to expand the capabilities of what they can do for the community.

“Westwood Hills has been working on a new building,” Wambach said. “They’re really excited to create something for the visitors to come and learn about not only just the park, but engaging in nature and encouraging people to explore and learn about sustainability.”

City Councilwoman Margaret Rog said the project will be funded through bonds that require six of seven City Council members to vote in favor.

“We funded about $22 million in other projects recently, using general obligation charter bonds,” Rog said.

Rog said another type of bonds could be used to fund the project, but that would require approval of four out of the seven City Council members.

“The city manager and staff identified an alternative way (to fund the project), which is to utilize tax abatement bonds,” Rog said. “I’ve expressed my concerns about moving to a 4-7 majority for major financing of projects, because it seems to diminish the spirit of requiring a supermajority.”

Rog said she said she thinks the design that was approved is a larger investment of community resources than necessary.

“While I support the Westwood Hills Nature Center and I agree the new building is appropri

ate, I feel strongly that we could have accomplished a new building for less than the $13.5 million price tag,” Rog said.

Rog said the changes could mean the city might not be able to take on large projects.

“Our hands will be tied when new investment opportunities come along in the next few years for additional wants and needs in the community, related possibly to climate action or related to racial equity or related to emergencies like water safety things sort of unknown. That’s my biggest concern,” Rog said.

According to Rog, the council previously approved general obligation charter bonds for $9.3 million for the Southwest Light Rail Transit and other projects.