Tulare moves ahead with Zumwalt Park renovation

Photo by Rigo Moran

Tulare City Council acts as a catalyst of change for the city as they unanimously approve contracts for the construction of Zumwalt Park renovations

TULARE – With a goal in mind to bring outside revenue into Tulare and work in conjunction with the downtown revitalization, council voted on the most significant new development the city has seen in over ten years.

On Sept. 19, after much deliberation and discussion, all five members of Tulare City Council voted to move forward with the presented contracts for the renovation of Zumwalt Park. The current total projected cost for the project will be around $12.6 million. That includes a new amphitheater, playground, splash pad and new bathroom facilities. According to city staff, it is anticipated that construction activities will begin before the end of this month and the designated timeline is about 365 calendar days.

According to the staff report, this project will activate what is currently a passive park space by creating a regional destination serving the entire community with new recreational and entertainment opportunities.

“We have to invest our money in things that are going to result in new private sector investment,” city manager Marc Mondell said. “That’s what we need to do.”

The design for the park was approved in June 2022. Since then, the city has been working out some of  the kinks and working on finding contracts. Currently, there are three funding sources for this project: $5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), $5 million from Parks DIF Funds and $5.1 million from the general fund for Capital Improvement projects.

“(The identified funding sources) keep it as an isolated project, where you don’t have the butterfly effect. That I support,” councilman Patrick Isherwood said.

Though the large majority of the community in attendance were in support of the project, there were still some concerns brought forward. Concerns as to the cost, parking, water waste and more were addressed by a concerned citizen. However, staff has thought through many of the apparent issues and Mondell assured the council it is necessary to invest in different areas now, because it will then provide opportunities in the future.

“Yes, we will have issues over time. That’s why it’s so important that we invest the money now into projects that will generate more revenue for us,” Mondell said. “Then we take that revenue and we use it to fund new things.”

Councilman Jose Sigala added future direction in addition to the motion of approval. This direction included bringing back the item to a future council meeting to discuss any negative impacts that may result from the project including parking. It also included a meeting that will have staff continue to look for alternative funding sources for the project, mainly to avoid spending any of the city’s development impact fees (DIF) for funding for parks. 

“The parks DIF fees are intended as a funding source for the city to provide expanded park-related improvements and programs that are of regional (i.e., citywide) benefit,” city engineer Michael Miller said.

There was much discussion over the significance of this project amongst the council members. A project of this caliber has not been done in the city since the building of the city’s new library in 2010.

“If we’re going to invest in this, we need to invest in this and we need to do it right,” Isherwood said. “If we start cutting certain corners, if we start hodgepodging this, then next thing you know, ‘what will it (cost)?’ We don’t know.”

Additional development

Also at the meeting on Sept. 19, council approved an additional almost $6 million in contracts for the city’s courthouse renovation and parking lot rehabilitation capital improvement project.

According to the staff report, the project will renovate the former Tulare County Courthouse to provide additional space for the police department personnel and operations. The remainder of the building will house a business incubator function in partnership with the Tulare Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the renovations to the building itself, the project will renovate the existing on-site parking lot, including the addition of security fencing and gates.

By creating a space for new startup businesses to grow and develop, the business incubator will provide new opportunities for economic growth in the community. The city is hopeful that the business incubator could play a key role in “jumpstarting the revitalization” of the downtown area.

“It is anticipated that those businesses will gain the experience and resources to eventually venture out of the incubator and establish locations downtown,” is stated in the staff report.

This project was included and approved as a part of the City’s 2023-2028 CIP program budget. In which, $4.8 million of funding is from the General Fund CIP,  the ARPA Federal Grant is responsible for funding $1.3 million and Lease Revenue Bonds  are responsible for $781,031.

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