Othello moves to acquire PJ Taggares Park
Rolando Cerrillo, chair of Adams County Parks and Recreation District 1, in PJ Taggares Park in April 2021. The Othello City Council approved an interlocal agreement at the end of February with the parks and rec district to take over maintenance of the park, with the goal of taking over ownership of the facility..
Playground equipment in PJ Taggares Park. The park is located south of West Cunningham Road on the western side of the city, just outside of city limits.
Staff Writer | March 9, 2022 1:12 AM
OTHELLO — The city of Othello will start negotiations to take over ownership of PJ Taggares Park, and is taking over park maintenance this spring. Othello City Council members voted unanimously to approve an interlocal agreement with Adams County Parks and Recreation District 1, the current park owners, at the Feb. 28 council meeting.
Parks and rec commissioners had previously approved the agreement.
The interlocal agreement runs through 2032. Mayor Shawn Logan said the agreement is intended to be temporary, while city and district officials work out details to transfer the property to the city’s ownership.
The park is located at the intersection of West Cunningham Road and South Taylor Road and was donated in 1997 by longtime Othello farmer and community supporter Pete “P.J.” Taggares and his family. It’s outside the current Othello city limits but within the city’s urban growth boundary.
After Taggares died in 1999 the parks and rec district was formed to help maintain the property.
The current parks and rec district board members requested a levy last year to generate money for its maintenance but the proposal failed twice. That left the district with no funding for maintenance or operation, parks and rec board chair Rolando Cerrillo said in a separate interview Monday.
“It’s hard to run with no money,” Cerrillo said.
Following the second rejection, parks and rec officials contacted the city about taking over maintenance and, eventually, ownership of the park. Logan said during the council meeting that maintenance would be difficult for the parks board, which would be reliant on volunteers for a lot of the work.
“This was the best route for us to go,” Cerrillo said. “(The city has) the resources and they’ve got the manpower.”
The interlocal agreement would allow city maintenance crews to begin working in the park immediately.
“They knew we would take care of it,” Logan said in a separate interview Monday.
The ownership transfer should be completed by late June or early July, Logan said, but the park will need some maintenance before that. The city must have some legal tie to the park before city crews can do maintenance, Logan said, thus prompting the creation of the interlocal agreement.
Logan said acquiring the 19-acre facility would be a good deal for the city. The park has fields that can be used for football or soccer, baseball fields, playground toys, basketball courts and picnic shelters. For city officials to buy land and develop a similar park would be very expensive, he added.
“(Development of a park) would cost millions,” Logan said.
City and parks and rec district officials offered a bond in 2008 to pay for a new swimming pool; that bond was approved and the pool built in Othello’s Lions Park. The city pays $10,000 to the parks and rec district each year for administrative expenses related to the bond. Councilmember John Lallas asked if the fee would be waived if the park was transferred to the city. Logan said that fee would be one of the subjects addressed in negotiations.
The long-term goal is to upgrade the amenities in the park and add to them, Logan said.