Stop arguing about Millennium; start talking about money

Published 5:15 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

The current debate over the future of Danville-Boyle County’s parks has been framed too often as a decision between caring for all parks or caring for Millennium Park.

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Some Boyle County magistrates say they only want to spend the county’s money on Millennium Park. They cite tradition, claiming that’s how it’s always been done since Millennium was created in the late 1990s. And they claim the other parks in Danville are the city’s responsibility, not theirs.

It’s a short-sighted way of looking at things that ignores a few facts:

  • The county does already help fund parks programming that occurs outside of Millennium Park;
  • the county collects taxes and provides services to all of its residents, including those living in incorporated cities; and
  • all the public parks currently being discussed are available to and used by city, county and out-of-county people daily.

To any supporters of Danville City Commission standing up right about now to cheer that the Advocate is in your corner, sit back down.

Danville has had an agenda since this whole parks snafu began. It’s not necessarily a bad agenda, but it is ambitious — the city wants to spend millions creating a utopia in Boyle County rivaled by few to none in Kentucky. Boyle County officials are greatly concerned about such proposed costs, but we haven’t witnessed many people from the city taking those concerns seriously.

The city moved forward with a parks master plan on its own and now wants to begin implementing that plan with Boyle County’s help. It seems at times Danville is trying to guilt county officials into a plan of action they didn’t help formulate.

The real issue here isn’t — or shouldn’t be — Millennium Park vs. the other parks. The real issue here is money. The Boyle County Fiscal Court is afraid of getting roped into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars (or millions?) when they already feel the purse strings tightening from every other direction.

Why magistrates don’t just focus on that and put aside the silly “focus on Millennium” talk isn’t clear to us.

Residents in Danville, Perryville, Junction City, Parksville and Gravel Switch all benefit from Millennium Park’s walking paths and athletic complexes. They also all benefit from Jackson Park’s disc golf course, from Whites Park’s playground,  from strolling the banks of Clark’s Run in Michael M. Smith Park, from fitness classes at Bunny Davis Recreational Center. Those parks and services even benefit people living in Mercer and Lincoln counties and beyond.

Claiming Millennium — which is inside Danville City Limits — is the only park worth anything to county residents — over half of which live in Danville — is simply not an argument Boyle County officials can win.

The argument they can win is the financial one, because they control how their taxpayers’ money is spent. If Boyle County only has $400,000 to spend on parks every year, or $1 million, or $200,000, or $200, then magistrates can simply say that’s what Boyle County has available to spend, period.

Pretending Millennium Park is the wedge issue on which things hang only gets in the way of real conversation. And it prevents those standing on the wedge from realizing a much better vision for how parks are run:

Right now, Danville is the lone entity responsible for maintaining all those so-called “city” parks that Boyle says it has no interest in. That means Danville is the lone entity that gets to say how or if those parks are developed, which means all the county residents living outside of Danville city limits don’t get a say.

In a better arrangement, all local governments — including Junction City and Perryville — would participate in funding all parks. No one would have to spend more than they spend now if they don’t want to. Residents from all around Boyle County wouldn’t lose anything, but they would gain influence over what the parks they use look like.

That strikes us as a much preferable alternative to bunkering down in Millennium or guilt-tripping for a water park.