City Council member Tim Leigh has an idea about how to answer the question about what to do with Memorial Hospital and how to maintain the city’s parks system.
He suggested that that the hospital system to take over at least two of the parks, possibly three – Memorial Park, Boulder Park and Monument Valley Park.
The idea was met with silence, then skepticism and finally reserved acceptance from the Memorial Task Force this morning.
Leigh’s point: people are concerned about the park system and the city lacks the cash to maintain them fully. Memorial wants to become an independent nonprofit, possibly through a lease agreement. Why not combine the two.
“This makes sense,” he said. “Don’t laugh. This could be how we pay for parks. This is what people are concerned about now. It’s a benefit to the city. I know this is a different way of looking at it.”
City Attorney Pat Kelly said the group could tailor the lease plan to make sure the money went to the parks, but other council members weren’t sure.
“I understand that childhood obesity is an issue, and the parks are a way to combat that,” said Merv Bennett “But I think we need to frame it in those terms, instead of simply getting the grass mowed.”
Other council members suggested that Memorial could help support the Beth El School of Nursing at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The nursing school was once part of Memorial, until UCCS took over its administration.
Leigh is part of a task force that is working out the details of Memorial’s future for a possible ballot initiative in November.
Bennett wants concrete figures from outside sources about how much Memorial would pay to lease its asset from the city.
“I think we need that number,” he said. “And it doesn’t need to come from Memorial. We don’t want voters to say that we’re allowing Memorial to feed us numbers. We need an outside source.”
But Larry Singer, a consultant hired last year to guide the citizens’ commission in its recommendation to city council, said those numbers are going to be hard to come by.
“There’s not necessarily a formula out there,” he said. “Different cities have done it differently. The amount is going to be set based on Memorial’s contributions to the city and the restrictions placed on it in the lease agreement.”