City Council dives in on which capital projects to prioritize, and when

Palm Springs may have a relatively small population, but it has a large list of needs (and the money to tackle them). Sorting through residents’ priorities, and those deemed crucial by city staff, is the job of the City Council. Councilmembers continued to do that Wednesday evening.

Driving the news: During review of a five-year plan to fund and build city projects, engineering staff outlined dozens of important needs — from a wind wall along the roadway on Gene Autry to relocating Fire Station 1 and building a new main library — asking the Council to help prioritize their work.

  • City Manager Justin Clifton: “At the end of the day we need to find the right balance between quantity of projects and quality of projects. …All of these are community projects that benefit residents, even the ones they don’t see like sewer pipes.”

The big picture: After 150 minutes of discussion, Councilmember Christy Holstege asked what, exactly, city leaders were expected to do with the information. Clifton explained staff first needs direction for next year’s projects, but that some requests were missing. Specific direction will come after more information is gathered and discussed.

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  • Still to come: Among the missing requests were the priorities set by the Measure J Oversight Commission, which are expected later this month.

    • Measure J is a 1% sales tax approved by city voters. A portion is set aside for publicly requested projects each year. The Commission recommends which projects to fund, but the Council has the final decision.

Ball in their court: Building bridges, libraries, and airport amenities are crucial, but what many in the community are asking for is much simpler: Pickleball courts. The sport is popular with the older population that dominates the city, and its devotees are a consistent presence at public meetings.

  • Two elected leaders, Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner and Councilmember Dennis Woods, acknowledged the popularity of the recreational activity but wondered if spending up to $1 million on new courts — with a focus on expanding facilities specifically at Demuth Park — was equitable and wise.

    • Garner: “I know pickleball is popular, but every single weekend there are people who make soccer fields themselves. We know where they do this. Maybe the city should build some soccer fields as well.”

    • Woods: “I support pickleball courts, but I have a little different opinion that our facilities should be spread throughout the city. For example: If I want to play pickleball, that’s a 25-minute drive for me. …Those facilities need to be in more locations closer to people.”

What’s next: More discussion, more meetings, and an agreement to focus on next year’s budget first and projects five years down the road at a later date.

  • Next year’s city budget must be adopted before the end of June.

Find the 16-page staff report here.

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