Easton officials were presented with a plan Tuesday night to spruce up Hugh Moore Park.
The proposal to polish what Mayor Sal Panto calls "a jewel for the city" was put together over the last six months by a task force of Hugh Moore Park board officials and city administrators. It was explained by Director of Public Works Dave Hopkins at a city council conference meeting.
Hopkins said the goal is to create "a museum-quality park" by improving the park's maintenance. The city would first hire a park ranger and an assistant park ranger, and then add a third full-time position in 2013 or 2014.
Hopkins said the plan would not cost the city any extra money, because of a funding formula agreed to by the Hugh Moore Park boards. The city would receive 75 percent of the monthly payments from the Hugh Moore Park Charitable Trust, with the rest going to the organizations running the Hugh Moore Park Canal Museum.
Hopkins presented figures showing that if the plan goes into effect on Oct. 1, the rangers would be paid a total of $27,500 for the remainder of the year, and that maintenance, electricity and water costs would total $11,000. The Trust would contribute $21,600, or $7,200 a month, toward those costs, and the city's share would be $17,000.
The 2013 budget would be $183,723, Hopkins said, noting that the figure would include about $19,000 for four part-time summer employees. The Trust would contribute $93,000 toward that amount, and the city $91,000.
Council members and the mayor appeared pleased with the proposal. "If I can be honest, over the last 15 years, there's been more attentiveness to the museum rather than the park," Panto said. Moving the museum back to the park this year, from Two Rivers Landing, where it had been since 1996, "has been a real positive," he added.
The mayor pointed out that a two-mile bike path in the park was recently cleared and paved, "and now there can be anywhere from 200 to 300 people using that path from Thursday to Sunday."
Hopkins added: "If you do it right, history can be very attractive."
Council and the mayor also reviewed a proposed ordinance covering solar energy systems. Much of the discussion centered on whether it was wise to put restrictions on "vegetation," along with structures or other objects, that might interfere with sunlight reaching the surface of a solar collector.
"I have no problem with the structures part [of the ordinance]," said Panto. "But this says vegetation, too. We're encouraging people to plant trees, and in 20 years, a tree will block the sun."
Council also heard about recommendations to improve the ordinance governing the city's Historic District.
Consultant Dominique Hawkins, who put together the recommendations for the Historic District Commission, told council that term limits on the commission would be a good idea to prevent it from being perceived as a "fiefdom" for certain architects and real estate agents.
She also suggested a policy governing conflicts of interest; a requirement that houses and trim be painted every few years, and a re- examination of the rules governing demolition of historic properties.