Danville hopes for expansive parks partnership

Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Just after the city manager gave the highlights of the 2019-2020 proposed budget to Danville City Commission in its regular meeting Tuesday, led by Mayor Pro-Tem J.H. Atkins due to Mayor Mike Perros’ absence, Commissioner Kevin Caudill had one question.

“Before we finalize anything, we have to decide what our agreement with the county is park-wise, correct?” Caudill asked.

The city and Boyle County Fiscal Court have attempted talks for months to discuss funding of Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation, including a possible rewrite of the ordinances governing who pays for what. Some magistrates are vehemently opposed to funding anything except Millennium Park, which the county and city share ownership of.

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City Attorney Stephen Dexter said ideally, this issue would have been resolved in March, “to allow proper budget planning to transpire before today.” He said depending on how the issue is resolved in the coming weeks, “it could be anticipated a budget amendment would be needed, or not — depending on the outcome of that scenario.”

Dexter said for instance, if the county elects to participate in a city- and county-wide park system, no change in the budget would be needed.

“However, in the event the county elects to participate in funding Millennium Park only, you should anticipate a budget amendment. The city will likely have to provide resources necessary to administer, govern and maintain parks that are critical as an asset of the city that fall outside of Millennium Park, including trails,” he said. “In a nutshell, the budget has been prepared in the mindset and hope of a continued collaboration to the highest degree.”

Commissioner Rick Serres said this would be more likely to include a “shifting” of funds. He said the city has money set back for Parks & Rec, with over half of it going directly to the agency, and the other half reserved for city parks maintenance.

“… I hope the county is listening and wants to get on board and work with us. It just means more money for trails and the parks system in general,” Serres said.

“Ideally, in that conversation, the city would prefer to keep an integrated system, so as to allow the dollars to be co-mingled,” Dexter said, referring to the idea that the use of particular parks could be “contingent upon your place of residency in the county.”

In past discussions, officials from the city and county said they did not want to enact “user fees” for county residents’ use or entry into parks and facilities.

Dexter said, “However, if the city is shifted with the burden of placing the lion’s share, of the sole cost share for all of the parks outside of Millennium Park, there’s some critical decisions that will fall from that, that I know you would prefer not to make, that I don’t think the residents in the community would like, either.”

At the last joint meeting held in April, the city and county agreed Dexter would draft two different ordinances for the bodies to independently review. One will represent a joint Parks & Rec board that only manages Millennium Park; the other will have the board managing the entire parks system.

“We projected a June 1 rollout. We’re on track to having those plans completed …” Dexter said, explaining the documents are “in preparation and will be ready for viewing by that time.”

Serres said the idea was to get the ordinances to commissioners and magistrates for review, then allow them to be independently reviewed by the city commission and fiscal court bodies.

The city and county each allocated $253,225 for the main Parks & Rec budget. The city also allocated $51,165 for operational expenses at Bunny Davis center and pool; and $120,000 for neighbor park improvements and expenses, which Scott said includes some money for necessary minor equipment upgrades at Bunny Davis.

The county’s budget plans for $57,900 in funding for the fitness center and pool beyond the base $253,225 amount.

The city has a $160,000 future reserve for pool replacement. Scott said $20,000 has been allocated for eight years in preparation to eventually replace the Bunny Davis pool.

The city also has budgeted $50,000 for a Kroger Neighborhood Park, still in the planning stages, to benefit that side of town. It has $75,000 set aside for Henson Park and $70,000 for general park development.

Also, Danville has big plans for its trail systems in the upcoming budget. Capital expenditures include $30,000 for Hughes Lane Trail; $20,000 for a mountain bike trail; and $143,687 for Henson Trail.

“I would ask those involved with the (Danville-Boyle County) Trails Alliance to watch carefully with a special lens in the coming weeks, as we attempt to resolve some agreements regarding parks and recreation in this community,” Dexter said. “… I would encourage you in a roll-out of the options, to take a position on what is best for trails.”

Dexter said developing the trails system is a “critical element in what is now a complex diagram of assets.”

He said, “You will have one option — considering them a joint asset of the city and county, which will have shared costs and maintenance. You will have another option that focuses mostly on Millennium Park and the assets that are there, which will in turn leave trails entirely in the purview of maintenance and construction by the city.”

Dexter said which ordinance the county and city end up using will be important in reference to who is going to “maintain, protect and ensure the continuation of these trails in the community, for now and for generations.”