Boyle sends modified Parks & Rec ordinance back to Danville
Published 8:21 pm Wednesday, August 21, 2019
The Boyle County Fiscal Court has submitted its idea for an updated ordinance governing the operation of the Danville-Boyle County Parks & Recreation agency. Although the draft ordinance was unanimously passed and sent on to the city for its review, one magistrate explained why he has a “very bad feeling” about it.
The City of Danville returned its idea of a new ordinance back in June, which outlined a “bucket system” to separate shared expenses versus those each government entity is solely responsible for. Multiple county officials think Boyle should not pay for maintenance or capital expenditures for any parks except Millennium Park, because it never has, while the city wants to share operating costs for all parks between both governments.
The city first wanted to take Parks & Rec on as solely a city-operated agency; the fiscal court did not agree. The ordinance forming the Parks & Rec agency has been on the books since the ‘90s. After a few failed attempts at joint meetings to discuss the issue, each entity rewrote its own ordinance.
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County Attorney Chris Herron has been receiving information from magistrates about what they’d like to see changed and sent a revised draft late the night before last week’s fiscal court meeting, Judge-Executive Howard Hunt said. Mayor Mike Perros and some commissioners were in the crowd and Hunt apologized that the ordinance had not yet been forwarded to them.
There was no discussion held about what changes the county made to the ordinance.
It states that both entities “shall finance in equal shares all programming costs, personnel costs, and maintenance and capital expenditures in Millennium Park. It is understood that the maintenance and capital expenditures in parks wholly owned by the county or city shall be the sole responsibility of the respective owner.”
The county also added “… the county and city may enter into service agreements for certain current or existing services or projects. Further, the cost of water, sewer and stormwater services provided by the city shall be billed at the wholesale rate to the board.”
When asked for a response to the county’s draft ordinance, City Manager Ron Scott said the ordinance will be presented to the city commission “for their review, comment and possible action.”
Scott said, “The city previously adopted the position that Parks & Rec should be ‘jointly funded in equal shares and operated as a city department, as Parks & Recreation was viewed to be a core mission of the city. However, the city did offer to let the county run the joint Parks & Recreation as a department of the county, but that offer, as I recall, was declined.”
‘If we don’t change our hearts …’
“We have an example of where I really have a problem with the Parks & Rec,” Magistrate John Caywood said, when the court was on the topic of the new ordinance draft. He asked Parks & Rec Director John Bell to explain a recent issue.
Bell said in the original master plan from 1998, there was a call for a BMX pump track, which is designed for younger kids to “basically use the inertia of the construction of the track itself to propel them around, using the hills, ramps and curves.” The design was originally laid out for Millennium Park, but it was determined the area planned for it wasn’t suitable.
“Skipping ahead 20 years, an alternate site was verified and was began on just before I got here,” Bell said, who’s been in his position roughly three months. Once again, he said, it was determined it might not be the best area and the development was halted. He said a “quick ad hoc committee” was developed to figure the situation out, consisting of himself, Magistrate Caywood, Commissioner Rick Serres, a resident from the Lannock area, and one member each from the Parks & Rec Board and the Trails Alliance.
“We discussed the validity of a pump track, whether it needed to take place at Millennium Park, and — if it did — the best location,” Bell said. He said after review, the Parks & Rec Board unanimously decided it was a viable entity to the park. The alternate location is now next to the skate park.
“Here’s where I’m going with this,” Caywood said. He said part of the discussion on the ad hoc committee was based on whether or not Jackson Park would be an option for the pump track. “I suddenly realized, well, wait a minute. If Jackson Park is an option, would the county have any way, with the way that the ordinances are reading … The county would not have been involved in helping in any way with programming, building or adding any money into that project for all of the citizens to use, if it was in Jackson Park as the ordinance reads now.”
He asked Bell, “John, are you in agreement with that?”
Bell said, “Correct.”
“So that’s the way you read it, too,” Caywood said. “I have a very bad feeling about that, I thought — this doesn’t seem right. We should have some skin in the game …”
“Why you changing it from Millennium Park? What’s your purpose?” Magistrate Phil Sammons asked.
Caywood said he was only relaying a discussion, but he foresees many more issues like this coming up. “Then I go and get into reading the ordinance … ‘desire to continue to effectively collaborate and share resources to provide a thriving park system … for all citizens of Boyle County and Danville …’”
Yet, he said, “we only put our focus as a county on the parks that the county owns.” Caywood said in reality, citizens actually own the parks; the government entities are just the caretakers. He said the community should have parks that all people can get to, “and not everybody can get to Millennium.”
He said families should be able to use the smaller parks, if they were kept up, and how “beautiful and full of possibilities” Jackson Park is, especially when Parks & Rec could have the ability to go in and program events there. Focusing on one park is a mistake, he said, “when we have so many others to offer.”
“Caldwell Manner obviously is a neighborhood next to Jackson. Those people pay city taxes and write checks for county taxes, but the way our structure is going and the way our ordinances are writing, it doesn’t put any county money into helping to build a program for that park,” Caywood said.
He said he doesn’t have the answer, “but I have some idea of the mission,” and that a multi-park system is better for the community. Otherwise, he sees the potential of residents being asked to pay a fee to attend a park the county doesn’t contribute to.
“The mission on parks needs to be rethought. And I know I’m in the minority …”
Magistrate Tom Ellis said the city and county being able to enter into service agreements, as stated in the draft, “will cover Magistrate Caywood’s concerns.”
Caywood said he was going to “call on John Bell for his vision.”
“He’s putting you on the spot, John,” Sammons said to Bell. “He’s programmed you.”
Bell said the very first time he came before the fiscal court and city commission, he told both, “My title is Danville-Boyle County Parks & Rec Director, and I believed on day one I’m here to serve Danville and the county of Boyle, border to border — all inclusive. Until the day my title changes, that’s what I’ll do.”
Bell said that’s a statement from him, “not an official statement from the parks board itself,” but he believes it would agree. “I’m here to serve all residents. I believe there are some entities with the current county and city parks structure that are being underutilized, could be better utilized more efficiently, but right now that’s not my domain.”
Bell said a space doesn’t have to include an athletic field to be considered a park. “My vision is it’s anywhere they can get out and be doing something. If there’s grass under your feet, it can be a park.”
Magistrate Cullen said, “For the county, the money’s not there,” and that county employees “didn’t get a raise this year because we don’t have the money.” He said maybe that will change “with the help of our partners over at EDP (Economic Development Partnership), they’re going to bring stuff in … hopefully we’ll see more increased tax dollars coming in, and then we can say yeah, we’re going to help out more.”
Sammons said he’s been on the court longer than any of them, and explained that the city and county decided to “come together and have one park we could afford … Closed the little parks and concentrated on this one hub (Millennium Park), and we’ve been living by this one rule forever, don’t know what got us off track.”
“… If we don’t change our minds and our hearts, mentally, we won’t be adding to it. I know what this says …” Caywood said, holding the ordinance. “But I know where we are. Just trying to get you to change … I sat in Jackson, so underused, such a beautiful place. Go in there, spend a little money and time, some elbow grease, could be a nice field again to be used by our young people.”
Sammons said, “If I lived in downtown Danville, I’d feel exactly the way you do. But all of us are county people, except you. I think we need a motion to approve this and get on with it.”