Jul 29, 2012

Council and park board meet to discuss disbanding board


BY RYAN BERRY
GREENVILLE – After a one hour Greenville Park Board of Commissioners meeting and two hour Greenville City Council meeting to discuss the possibility disbanding the park board, it was determined that voters in the city would have to take the initiative for that to happen. According to Camille Baker, law director, neither council or the park board can make that decision. An individual would have to submit a referendum petition calling for the board to be disbanded to the Darke County Board of Elections. The petition would require signatures from five-percent of the electorate in the city. In order to get it on the November ballot, the petition would need to be submitted by Aug. 8.

Nancy Myers, city auditor, originally presented the idea of dissolving the park board to save money. She said, “I started this freight train, but it was not my intent.” She explained she has been with the city for 32 years and has served as auditor since 1998 and her main goal is to serve the public in the best way possible. “We constantly have to look outside the box. This is a brand new day in city government and we have to look at different ways to serve the public.” The city has lost approximately $600,000 in local government funds and has been forced to make cuts in every department. The park’s budget was cut from approximately $500,000 in 2011 to $352,000 in 2012, a 37-percent reduction. Myers noted there is an urgency to do something. “We cannot continue doing financially what we are doing for the next two-year period. State cuts are eating into our carryover.” The city expects to spend $400,000 more this year than it takes in, which will cut away at its $1.8 carryover. The proposed budget for 2013 shows a bigger bite out of the carryover.

Several persons from the public praised Andy Mead for his work as the Park Facilities Manager and were worried he would be dismissed if the park board was disbanded. Under Mead’s leadership, the park has numerous volunteers picking up trash, cleaning, painting and doing other jobs around the park.

Shelly Miller took over the swim team when there was no money to pay a coach and now has 47 kids that are paying to swim at the pool. According to Miller, with the fees alone, the pool received $1500 they might not have had without the swim team. Miller also volunteered to teach swimming lessons. She started with two classes and now has eight classes. “I am making money for the pool,” she said. “There are people out there like me that can do the same. If I can do the same next year, it will be five times bigger.”

Rob and Amber Garrett have 22 other people lined up to start a Friends of the Greenville City Park organization to raise funds and offer assistance to the park. They have also enlisted the assistance of an attorney to write up the paperwork for 501(c)3. Several events were scheduled this year to raise money, but had to be cancelled because of lack of communications from the park board. Tim Harless, park board commissioner, apologized to the Garretts, noting they had a meeting set up with the city’s administration to discuss the issue, but it had to be cancelled and was never rescheduled. “We dropped the ball,” he said.

The biggest concern addressed by the public was how the park would be maintained if the city’s street department was in charge. Some felt the street department employees would not have the same heart for the park as Mead. Council President John Burkett argued that all city employees have a lot of heart for what they do and they would do the best job possible for the parks.

Council persons, park board members and the general public left the meetings with too many questions that remained unanswered. Early in the council meeting, Councilman Tracy Tryon said, “As a voter I don’t know how I could vote yes or no without knowing the game plan.” Later in the meeting he expressed his frustration that nothing was accomplished in the meeting.

The park board and city council are expected to meet again to share ideas and thoughts and see if a “game plan” can be developed.

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