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MURRAY PONDERS HIRING FIRM TO RAISE RECREATION FUNDS

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City officials are trying to decide whether they want to retain a private consulting firm or go it alone to raise funds for a number of city recreation projects.

With a total price tag of nearly $12 million, Murray is looking to construct a proposed community recreation center, reno-vate the city swimming pool, build new baseball diamonds and finish trail construction along the Jordan River Parkway.Salt Lake City-based Fund Raising Counsel Inc. approached Mayor Lynn Pett last month with a three-point program for raising the money. And in a presentation to the City Council Tuesday, company principal Scott Hansen said the consulting work would cost the city roughly $17,000 to complete two phases of the project, or just 1 to 3 percent of what the group would help them raise.

Included in the first two phases would be pinpointing the amount of money the city can raise and determining how much money is necessary to fund the projects. A third phase would concentrate on cultivating donors.

Parks and Recreation director Doug Hill said that during the weeks that he has been talking with the group, they have gained his confidence. Hill also said the possibility of fund raising excites him because the city won't have to go to taxpayers to finance the upgrades.

"(Parks and Recreation) would still be involved in fund raising, but we don't have the expertise to identify individuals who can give large sums of money and run a major campaign in the city. We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars," Hill said. "We're good at getting sports equipment."

Somehow, Parks and Recreation needs to find $750,000 for the ball diamonds and supplemental support facilities, like restrooms and concession stands; $8 million for the recreation center; $1 million in pool renovations; and $2.5 million to complete the parkway, which has won acclaim valleywide.

Retaining the consulting firm would be a first for the city. And Hill said for Murray to have the necessary leverage it needs, a planning study would need to be completed in the next eight months for officials to be able to determine how much money is needed and how much would need to be raised.

Although the council appeared minimally receptive to the idea Tuesday, ultimately the decision rests with Pett, who can tap the mayor's discrepancy fund and bypass council-sponsored budget hearings on the matter. Pett, though, says he's still skeptical.

"I'd like to see some preliminary work. I like the concept and idea, but I haven't seen where (private consultants have) been that successful in the past," Pett said. "I want to see some real information before I jump on board. I'm not in a real rush to negotiate."