County officials say they will have no problem meeting a funding and maintenance requirement that comes with a $2.5 million donation for Stodden Park from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation.
The grant — the largest single donation Montana Resources and the Washington Foundation have made to Butte — was announced last month and is to be spent refurbishing much of Stodden Park. The improvements will include a commons corridor, playground, new tennis courts and utility upgrades.
Some of it will be used to renovate and relocate the former Columbia Gardens arch to Stodden Park, where it will serve as a gateway to the corridor called Central Park.
Commissioners said Tuesday night they are grateful for the donation and they approved an agreement with the foundation about how the money can be used. But they were not clear about the specifics of one provision.
It says the county must set aside at least $250,000 raised through public or private sources to cover repair and maintenance costs over the “useful life of Stodden Park.” The money can’t come from the donation.
That provision was noted in a Sept. 7 letter to Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Matt Vincent, but Council Chairwoman Cindi Shaw said commissioners didn’t know about it until last Friday when Vincent’s team added it to Tuesday’s council agenda.
Shaw said it was proper for the county “to have skin in the game” and the award and project are wonderful, but she had asked county Finance and Budget Director Danette Gleason how the $250,000 would come about.
Gleason said the maintenance fund did not have to be established until all the improvements were made so they had a couple of years to ensure all the money is there. A few county debts would be paid off by then so that is one possible source of funds, she said.
Parks Director J.P. Gallagher said money already is spent to maintain Stodden Park so that portion could simply be set aside in a separate account.
Commissioner John Morgan wondered if the fund had to exist in perpetuity since there is no cut-off date in the agreement.
County Attorney Eileen Joyce said she felt it is safe to accept the grant and simply iron out any needed details with the foundation later, so commissioners agreed unanimously to do that.
Mike Halligan, executive director of the foundation, told The Montana Standard on Wednesday that the fund only had to exist through the useful lifetime of the various improvements so they were safe for the public to use. In other words, not forever.
The provision is “just basic common sense,” he said.