Volunteers ready to help build Pasco's first community garden

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldMarch 31, 2014 

Pasco could get its first public community garden by this summer.

Several community groups are willing to volunteer in building the project, to be in Kurtzman Park in east Pasco, just west of a housing development, said Rick Terway, Pasco's administrative and community services director.

Vendors have offered to provide needed materials.

The gardens are popular near apartment complexes or areas with housing in which residents don't have yards of their own, Terway told the city council at its Monday workshop meeting.

Pasco city staff members have taken numerous calls in the past couple of years asking for a garden in the city, Terway said.

Benton Franklin Head Start, in the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Center, is a possible partner in the project, he said. Children from nearby Virgie Robinson Elementary School could also help.

The agency may apply for a grant for the project and seek help from residents of the surrounding neighborhood. In addition, Lowe's Home Improvement has pledged to make the garden one of its community action projects, where its employees work on the site. Lowe's Pasco store improved the Babe Ruth League baseball park last year and Peanuts Park downtown in 2012.

Volunteers with the Washington State University Extension's Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners Program, who work on plant-related problems, are expected to help with guidance and provide a $500 grant for materials, Terway said. The program will also give growers seeds and other materials for planting.

The city would donate land for the garden, if approved by council. Terway said the garden is expected to be about 6,000 square feet, with 15 raised bed plots.

The garden could be the first of several in Pasco, Councilman Saul Martinez said.

"I think it shows people to take ownership and be encouraged to take care of their community," he said.

The garden could help teach valuable skills, Councilman Tom Larsen said.

"If we have another Great Depression or recession or inflation, people will want to grow their own food," he said.

Benton and Franklin counties have at least 34 community gardens, though most of them are not open to the public, according to Herald archives. Richland has three public gardens and Kennewick has one, with hope of adding a second garden at Lawrence Scott Park in northern Kennewick.

Also Monday:

- The council discussed having the city issue $5.3 million in revenue bonds to the Housing Authority of Pasco and Franklin County, so the authority can build a 38-unit housing development on 2.5 acres at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Pearl Street. Director Andy Anderson said the authority and its partners would be responsible for the bonds in case of default, not the city.

The council also discussed a payment in lieu of taxes agreement on the development. The housing authority would be required to pay a total of $9,244 in 2015, with $6,060 of that going to the school district, $1,733 to the city, $1,165 to Franklin County and $286 to the Port of Pasco. City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the city hasn't received any tax money from similar housing authority developments.

- The council heard a presentation from engineer Tom Perry with Murray, Smith & Associates, which the city hired to conduct a study on the needs of its sewer system during the next 20 years. Perry, using a projection of 90,000 future users, said the city won't likely need to build a second wastewater treatment plant, this one in west Pasco, which officials had been concerned about having to do.

But Pasco will likely need upgrades totaling $39.5 million at its existing wastewater treatment plant on the east side of town, Perry said. Another $29 million in improvements to the city's sewer collection system will also be needed by 2033.

The improvements can likely be paid for with a 4 percent sewer rate increase in 2016 and another 2 percent increase in 2022, Perry said.

"If the economy picks up and you get a full head of steam, a lot of these projects might get pushed up a few years," he said.

- The council discussed lowering the speed limit on Oregon Avenue to 40 mph from the current 45 mph. Public works Director Ahmad Qayoumi said the street has been the site of 190 car crashes during the past five years, with eight deaths.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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