Magistrates reverse course on Parks & Rec deal

Published 8:38 pm Monday, February 18, 2019

Boyle County magistrates unexpectedly rejected a document laying out recommendations for transferring its half of Millennium Park to the City of Danville Monday.

“Surely to god you didn’t think we were going to say yes and agree to this?” Magistrate Phil Sammons asked Danville City Attorney Stephen Dexter, after Dexter presented the document during the meeting of a special parks and recreation “working group.”

“I did Phil,” Dexter responded. “I anticipated walking out of this in a short amount of time.”

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The biggest sticking point, according to Sammons and Magistrate Tom Ellis, seemed to be that their request for 10 acres of the fairgrounds property recently purchased by Danville wasn’t included in the recommendation. Sammons also complained that the county was supposed to have been included in purchasing the fairgrounds from the beginning.

“If you remember, we were supposed to be in agreement with the city and the school on buying it together. And then (Danville City Manager) Ron Scott makes an offer without us being involved,” Sammons said. “And David Williams (president of Boyle Land Trust) took the offer.”

Sammons said the city “kind of went behind our back.”

“Why didn’t we work out a good agreement that we were going to get half of it, and you all was going to get half?” he asked. “We’d have a place out there to put the EMS or road department, is probably what we would have done.”

“Some of that, you may have to ask your own judge to,” Danville Commissioner Kevin Caudill said. “I don’t know.”

Sammons alleged former Judge-Executive Harold McKinney “was trying to set up an appointment” to work on purchasing the fairgrounds land, when he got a call telling him the property had already sold.

The working group was formed by Danville City Commission and Boyle County Fiscal Court to address how to use the recently completed parks master plan that Danville paid to develop. Its members are Sammons, Ellis, Caudill and Danville Commissioner Rick Serres.

Last Monday, the working group discussed whether Millennium Park should be under the city’s control and if the move could benefit Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation. Also during that meeting, Sammons said the county was proposing giving its interest in Millennium Park to the city in exchange for property the city owns on Redryer Lane and 10 acres of the city-owned fairgrounds. The county also was prepared to offer $50,000 annually to help maintain Millennium Park.

City Attorney Stephen Dexter also attended the first meeting and was instructed to bring back a document listing the recommendations that the group had agreed upon. Dexter’s draft document is what set Sammons and Ellis off at the second meeting.

“You know what this would be called? It’d be called raping the county,” Sammons said.

“As opposed to raping the city, which is what Phil wants to do,” Caudill replied.

“I’m not going to sit here and have somebody railroad us,” Sammons added.

Ellis said the new document mentions the city’s offer to transfer 21 acres on Redryer Lane to the county, but didn’t include the county’s request for the 10 acres of fairgrounds property.

“I didn’t put it in there because there was no authority on this side to offer 10 acres,” Dexter replied.

“Well, let’s just cut to the chase and get right down to it,” Sammons said. “First of all, we don’t really feel like the city has any property that’s really of any value to us. … If you all want this park complete for $26,333 per acre, why don’t you give us that for our half of the park. … That would be a million-seven. Write a check for a million and a half today, and we’ll call it even.”

“Are you speaking for you two, or the court or the judge?” Dexter asked. “I just want to know who we’re talking to.”

Caudill said he and Serres will take Sammons’ and Ellis’ request for 10 acres of fairground property to the city, but, “My immediate response is that would probably be a hard sell.”

“You should have grabbed me at that 10 acres and the Redryer Lane property,” Sammons said.

“There’s not 10 acres to give,” Dexter said.

Ellis said a simple solution was for the city to just pay the county for its half of Millennium Park and negotiate a maintenance fee later. “This would be the path for least resistance because we know you want the fairgrounds, and we know you want the park by yourself.”

“We may not even pay you $50,000 like we offered you the other day,” Sammons said. “It may be $25,000.”

“What do you think the city is going to offer?” Sammons asked Dexter.

“I don’t think the city is going to offer you anything for the purchase of the park,” Dexter replied.

“The whole thing is to help Parks and Rec,” Serres said. “We sat here negotiating to cut each other’s throat, seemingly. … This small group couldn’t make a decision for the larger group.”

Serres said he thinks it’s time for the working group to disband and report back to their respective governmental bodies for discussions and to come up with a plan agreeable to everyone concerned.

What needs to be discussed is what the city would take over, what the county would agree to pay for maintenance and what the city could live with, Serres said.

“We’re sort of bumping heads, and we know we’re all friends and neighbors,” he said. “But some of this stuff that is being talked about is stuff that your judge-executive and our Danville mayor have talked about, and now it doesn’t seem like we’re on the same page.”

“Maybe your city manager is a better salesman than our judge, because he sold him that piece of dump down there (on Redryer Lane) and nobody else is interested in it,” Sammons.

“Your judge has reviewed this document,” Dexter said. “You need to know that.”