Danville passes new parks agreement for Boyle to review
Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2019
By BOBBIE CURD and BEN KLEPPINGER
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The City of Danville unanimously passed a “participation agreement” Monday night that sets up how a city-run parks department could be funded by Danville and Boyle County governments. City Attorney Stephen Dexter expressed his hope that Boyle County Fiscal Court acts promptly in order to get some resolution and move forward on a new path.
Dexter said the proposed agreement “puts us on the same path we have with Solid Waste, 911 and Emergency Management, in a proven format we know works,” referring to the shared service agreements between the city and county to operate those agencies.
The document, Dexter said, would be sent to Boyle County Judge-Executive Howard Hunt and County Attorney Chris Herron following Monday night’s meeting.
Dexter mentioned several times how Parks Director John Bell was involved in the drafting of the agreement, which he found essential in its development.
“I can say in preface that there’s been a lot of collaboration in the preparation of the document before you — not only with staff at city hall, but with the direct involvement of the Parks and Recreation Director John Bell, who’s lent his expertise and professionalism to the development of this document at every stage.”
Dexter said Bell’s involvement was significant for a couple of reasons. “Not only to rely on his expertise of the Parks and Rec business … but also because of his interaction with magistrates on the fiscal court and a unique understanding of the pulse of that body that he possesses simply by working with them closely and to include terms that would be advantageous to them.”
When Bell was asked for comment about the agreement from Mayor Mike Perros, he said, “I support about 95% of this document, the way it’s written right now,” and that “counsel knows my opinion on the one item.”
Bell’s 5% disagreement falls in the implementation date of the agreement as being Jan. 1, 2020, as opposed to July, when the next fiscal year begins.
“I think it should be July 1 … to take the time to process the agreement to where both sides are comfortable with the final document,” Bell said Tuesday morning. He said by doing this, it will allow for the transition to run more effectively and smoothly.
Monday night, Commissioner Rick Serres also said he was confused by the Jan. 1 effective date. Dexter said the date is a “standard, contractual term, to have an effective date, and there’s a signing date — they don’t always correspond; it’s typical language.”
Dexter said the document “is a conglomeration of the opinions and ultimately the recommendations that come from collective advisement. No document we prepare — it may not contain 100% of our personal preference, but I tried to address as many concerns as possible.”
City manager reacts
Tuesday afternoon, the city manager said he doesn’t really understand the hesitation about the Jan. 1 implementation date. Scott, who retires at the end of the year, was asked if he felt satisfaction that the move will be made before he leaves the city.
Scott said he feels the move is a progressive one that’s needed to happen for years. He said the Parks and Recreation agency has had “fractured delivery of services in prior years,” and sees it as a better outcome.
“It’s not a personal sense of accomplishment,” Scott said, adding that Bell has done a tremendous job at reaching out to the more underserved populations. He admits he’s been a big advocate for a better parks system since he came on as city manager.
“It was recognizing early on that our delivery wasn’t what we needed in terms of addressing all community needs.”
Scott said his push for a more expanded parks system also “arose out of some conflict with the management of the parks and recreation system” over what he terms a “different perspective that was in place at that time” about providing services in neighborhood parks and that “we can only spend county dollars in this one footprint (Millennium Park). It was falling short of the need and it took a long time to get to where we are. I had discussions with the prior county judge (Harold McKinney) for two or three years, and there was no support for doing a support for a master study, for example. I sort of take greater sense of accomplishment in terms of opening that process up for robust input by people of all walks of life in Danville. It’s not my view; it’s their collective view. So if anything, I’ve been a little bit of a process enabler, here.”
Many have said Scott’s push for the new system is due to it being “his legacy.” He laughed when asked about this.
“I don’t know about that … I really had little to do with it, other than advocating for change. Legacy — I don’t know about that.”
Scott said there have been dedicated people on the parks board and working in the department for years, and that “I don’t want to detract from what they’re doing. We just needed to grow and make a new model.”
Scott said in his opinion, much of the credit for the new proposed Parks & Rec arrangement should be given to the entire city commission, “who were steadfast over a number of years in their desire to improve Parks and Recreation services.”
Also, Scott said the new fiscal court should be recognized “for their willingness to consider approving a new administrative arrangement that will lead to greater efficiency while still guaranteeing access for all Boyle County residents without a fee differential between city and county residents.”
He said that at the end of the day, “the approval of this new approach does demonstrate that both the city and the county can work together to benefit all of our residents.”
What the agreement would do
The agreement says the city will provide all the programming, personnel and maintenance necessary to operate Parks & Rec, beginning Jan. 1. The agreement would last 10 years, and provisions are provided for either agency to change how it participates or opt out by giving a 180-day notice — the same language as other funding agreements, Dexter said.
The city would perform all Parks & Rec services for the county for the annual sum of $325,000. That amount is intended to represent the current level of funding the court contributes, and would be adjusted annually based on the cost of living. Boyle County would pay its contribution on a quarterly basis.
The agreement also ensures the parks budget will be delivered to the fiscal court quarterly in order to provide transparency on finances.
All current facility use and programming fees will be the same for all Boyle County residents, regardless of where they live, including citizens of Junction City and Parksville, Dexter gave as an example. Any non-Boyle County residents will be charged an additional 25%.
All administrative hiring will be handled by the city, Dexter said, but appropriate notice will be provided to the court in the event of hiring a director, “again to provide them shared understanding of what’s being transmitted into the department.”
The Parks Board would remain essentially the same, with three residents on the board nominated by the judge-executive, three by the mayor and one jointly appointed member. Judge-Executive Howard Hunt and Mayor Perros will also serve as ex officio members of the board.
Perros asked Dexter if he’d received any input from fiscal court or County Attorney Chris Herron. Dexter said that would not be following the normal chain of command. “You take a look at it and give us guidance and instruction to do so,” Dexter said, and that he would be contacting Herron about the document just after Monday night’s meeting.
Commissioner J.H. Atkins made the motion to approve the resolution, with Commissioner Kevin Caudill seconding it before it was unanimously passed.
Commissioner Serres highlighted the areas of the document he appreciated the most, such as it constantly mentioning the “joint” goal of the agency, and how citizens will now have one centralized agency to go to for any parks needs or concerns.
“All throughout the document , Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation is the name, it’s not Danville City Parks and Recreation …” Serres said. “That’s very strong for me.”
Dexter said due to the partnership with Bell on the document, “the goal is to program every inch of programmable space, regardless of ownership.”
At Tuesday’s Boyle County Fiscal Court meeting, magistrates said they may hold a special called meeting to go over the proposed agreement together, after they’ve had time to review it individually.
Bell told magistrates he knows some of them would prefer an effective date of July instead of Jan. 1, and there will need to be “an ongoing negotiation” to reach a final document both governments agree on.
Magistrate Tom Ellis said he is “cautiously optimistic,” in part because he knows commissioners Serres and J.H. Atkins want to reach an agreement that serves everyone well.
Magistrate Jason Cullen said he attended the city commission meeting the night before and appreciated that the city officials’ tone seemed different and their attitude seemed to be “let’s work together.”
“I have some things that I would like to have some explanation on in this,” Cullen said of the proposed agreement. “But even Stephen Dexter presented this in a very constructive way and I think had some thoughts about the fiscal court as well, not just the (city) commission, so I appreciated that last night.”