Fiscal court questions need for parks master plan

Published 11:15 am Friday, February 17, 2017

Many on Boyle Fiscal Court remain skeptical of a $50,000 plan to develop a parks master plan for Danville and Boyle County. But at least one magistrate says he’d like to keep the idea on the table until the court can learn more.
“I don’t want us to close the door on this until I know what the purpose and what the request is from the consultant,” Magistrate John Caywood said at this week’s fiscal court meeting. “It reminds me a little bit of the consultant for economic development. At first we said no, but as we hung around and looked at it, we said, ‘wait a minute maybe we really need to be involved and maybe we need to take a closer look at it.’”
Caywood was referring to the approximately $87,000 economic development study already underway that aims to provide a five- to seven-year plan for economic development in the area. Some on fiscal court were initially opposed to contributing to that study, but magistrates ultimately voted to provide $10,000.
Caywood said quality of life is a very important aspect of successful economic development and parks are a big part of quality of life.
“Let’s leave that door open; let’s listen,” he said. “We did it with economic development and when we came to a decision, we participated.”
Supporters of the idea, such as Danville City Manager Ron Scott, say the project would include an evaluation of all the area’s existing parks, surveys of the local population, analysis of what works well in other communities and demographic studies, in order to determine where Danville and Boyle County should put their parks dollars to be efficient and effective.
But other magistrates were less keen than Caywood on the idea of a new master parks plan.
Magistrate Jack Hendricks, the court’s representative on the ad hoc committee where the master plan is being discussed, said no one is looking back at the old master plan for Millennium Park, which was created 20 years ago. The city and county should look at that plan first and then tap local people to figure out how to spend parks money before hiring a consultant, he said.
“My feeling is that we didn’t need to spend $50,000 for a consultant that’s going to tell us what we already know,” he said.
Hendricks has suggested waiting two years and working on fixes and upgrades to Millennium Park that staff have already identified. He admitted in the fiscal court meeting he doesn’t think that suggestion got much traction with city leaders.
Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said he feels similarly to Hendricks.
“We’ve got known needs,” he said. “… We need a number of things that we know exist. Now I think when we think we’re caught up to where we need to be … I don’t have any problem with that. But right now we are not caught up in my opinion.”
Magistrate Phil Sammons, who served on the original steering committee that guided the creation of the 20-year-old master plan, said there are still improvements listed in that plan that have not happened.
“There were a lot of things on that master plan that we wanted to do as we could afford it. One of them was an amphitheater — we’ve never built that. There’s just a lot of things that were on that master plan that we discussed but at that time we could not afford it and still can’t afford it,” he said. “I’d like to pull that master plan back out — I haven’t even seen it in years, myself — and see what we can do before we spend any. Maybe we can leave the door open a little bit, but I want to see what we can do with what we’ve got to work with.”
Caywood said later in the meeting that the old plan may not have ideas that mesh with what young people today like to do.
“Phil, you’re in my generation. It’s a whole lot different than the younger generation that has different needs and expectations,” Caywood said. “I don’t know all of those younger needs. I don’t know and I hope somebody will come so that when we invest a dollar it’s the best investment for today. An amphitheater is a great idea and I’d love to see it, but I don’t know if that’s where we need to be.”
“Evidently we don’t need it because it’s been 20 years and we haven’t built it yet,” Sammons said, clarifying that he was “only using the amphitheater as an example.”
McKinney said he would provide copies of the old master plan to all of the magistrates so they could look through it and then resume the discussion at a future meeting.
The parks master plan may make it back onto the court’s agenda in another way, as well: Danville City Commission has voted to send Mayor Mike Perros to a future Boyle Fiscal Court meeting to discuss the master plan idea in person with the full court.