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Parks & Rec fight shows Danville, Boyle didn’t learn from 911 battle

EDITORIAL
The Advocate-Messenger

Parks and recreation has become the latest turf war du jour for Boyle County and Danville. Earmarked 911 funds are so 2017.

An optimist might have expected the city and county to learn some good lessons from last year’s battle over emergency dispatch money: Talk to each other before making decisions. Try to see things from the other side’s perspective. Act like allies, not competitive siblings.

Optimists should never place bets. The parks and recreation feud of 2018 feels eerily similar to the 911 squabble of 2017.

If you don’t remember, here’s a quick summary: Last year, arguments over 911-earmarked funds being held in reserve by Boyle County led Danville to accuse Boyle of being withholding and not paying enough for the dispatch center’s operations. By July, Boyle County was threatening to break from Danville for 911 service and use Garrard County’s Bluegrass 911 center instead. A battle ensued over who essentially owned the license to operate Danville’s 911 center; Danville asked the state auditor to audit Boyle’s 911 funds; Boyle voted to proceed with plans to use Bluegrass 911 (but then went back on that plan). Danville even voted in September to authorize the filing of a “declaration of rights action” in court, alleging “official misconduct” by the fiscal court.

The two sides ultimately patched things up and developed an interlocal agreement — something that could have been accomplished with a handful of joint meetings and cooperation, rather than hard-nosed negotiating at arm’s length.

Now that the city and county can’t fight over 911, they’ve decided to move their brawl to parks and recreation.

City officials are attending and, at times, attempting to dictate the agenda at Parks & Rec board meetings, even though they don’t sit on the board. Disagreements between city and county officials sitting on the joint Millennium Park ad hoc committee are too numerous to count. The Boyle County Fiscal Court voted to strategically reorganize its funding for Parks & Rec to hurt the Bunny Davis fitness center and pool — facilities the city owns. And now Danville City Manager Ron Scott has proposed a budget — which got no criticisms from the city commission — that eliminates direct funding of the joint Parks & Rec agency in favor of a restricted “City Parks and Recreation” account that Scott would have control over.

Both sides are back at it again, doing the same dance they did in 2017.

The current battle has at least some of its roots in Danville’s decision to pay $50,000 for the development of a master parks plan. The city wanted the county to split the cost of the study, but the county wasn’t interested. Now, that’s clearly become a sore spot.

Danville officials want to pursue whatever paradigm shifts are proposed by the soon-to-be-completed plan, including more attention for smaller parks and trails, while Boyle County wants to continue focusing its efforts fully on the centerpiece attraction, Millennium Park.

It’s completely understandable that the county government would be concerned about spending its money on smaller parks that benefit disproportionately residents of Danville — though the county ought to acknowledge that Danville residents are county taxpayers, too. It’s also completely understandable that Danville wants to think bigger than Millennium Park — though it may not be thinking as big beyond its own city limits.

The city and county have competing viewpoints, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. There must be good common ground that accommodates both sides somewhere, but the way things are going right now isn’t going to help anyone find it.

Instead of all the posturing and attacking and retaliating, it would be better for everyone involved — most importantly the taxpayers who want efficient government and enjoyable parks — if the city and county put their efforts into cooperating.

It’s obvious from both governments’ budgets they are willing to invest substantial dollars in making parks better. Between them, they plan on spending more than $1.1 million on parks next fiscal year. They should start from that shared value and talk out solutions before taking action.