Magistrate asks Danville to come back to parks table

Published 3:28 pm Friday, October 11, 2019


Guest columnist

On Monday, Oct. 14, Danville City Council is poised to repeal a parks and recreation contract with the Boyle County government in place since 1990.

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With this column to taxpayers in Danville and throughout Boyle County, it is hoped that citizens of our area will come forth, realizing that such an action would be perilous at very best.

By clarifying how we have came to this point in negotiations with Danville, I am appealing to you to encourage both our city commissioners and Boyle County magistrates to come back to the negotiation table.

Relevant issues that have led to this point need to be aired:

  • In early February, Danville and Boyle County officials put in place an ad hoc committee: two city commissioners and two Boyle County magistrates to outline concepts for continuing our joint operations of our parks and recreation System
  • An agreement in our initial meeting was reached to distill a lengthy discussion of concepts favorable to the people throughout the county, then bring them back for refinement in a second meeting before submitting a report to the city and county. 
  • Contrary to that agreement, Danville officials chose to bring forth a legal document, imposing signature lines and dates that appeared as if concurrence had been reached. That idea and approach were far afield from our first meeting’s concept of a working draft. 
  • Had we agreed to that document, Boyle County Fiscal Court would have been handing over virtually all authority to Danville City Commission – including parks and recreation decisions in Millenium Park, which is half-owned by county residents. 
  • As recently as Monday, Sept. 23, Danville elected officials heard a report that “consensus” had been reached in that second February ad hoc committee meeting. That was, as reported at the time by The Advocate-Messenger far from accurate.  To paraphrase my magistrate colleague’s words back then, Boyle County could do nothing but reject that document with its total control of our parks system

Over the ensuing weeks, our governments jointly convened a public meeting to work toward an agreement.  It was attended by all Danville commissioners, the entire complement of Boyle County magistrates, the Danville mayor and the Boyle County judge-executive. Our mission was to strive toward consensus on this important document.

In that meeting, we decided on two “tracks:” one based largely on a Danville design; a second working to maintain a contract with essential legal elements — including board structure and representation, equal voting, accountability and individual financial responsibilities by each respective governing body.

Though there was unanimous interest in a two-track approach, upon receipt we were once again disappointed when a single document with a heavy level of Danville City  governmental control was delivered to the Boyle County Fiscal Court that would result in the following:

  • removing all voting power from Boyle County Fiscal Court;
  • authority of the parks and recreation Board (in existence since 1990 and importantly a citizen-based group) would cease to exist; and
  • placing all decision-making power in the hands of one individual, Danville’s city manager.

Obviously, none of this took into account our 50% ownership of Millennium Park by Boyle Countians. Perils of such an extraordinary move abound!

An exceptional, highly qualified parks director was brought on board just this May. Credentials he brings into play are second to none. Signing on under the contract in existence provides our new director with joint authority between both governments. In turn, that gives him an assurance of voting equity in all matters: park development, programming, financial decisions and personnel matters. Collectively, these give vital balance when very tough issues arise where the director can currently come forward with a full, firm voice based on his professional certification and decades of experience.

To legally dissolve and remove those assurances offered up in hiring our new director four scant months ago, then transferring them from our County judge-executive and Danville mayor, to the sole discretion of a soon to be named new Danville city manager, is an issue that should not be condoned, and never approved.

In closing, a vital effort toward consensus on this community event — Parks and Recreation within Danville’s city limits and border to border through Forkland, Junction City, the Herrington Lake area, Perryville, Parksville, Mitchellsburg and as far remote from town as Penn’s Store must include our entire community.

Our extraordinary history as the seat of Kentucky’s Constitution and America’s westward expansion demand nothing less than coming together in a close working relationship; a beneficial bond between Danville and Boyle County to the benefit of all who call our community home. 

Tom Ellis is a Boyle County magistrate representing the first district, which includes the city of Perryville.