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City Council, park board sort out their roles
City Council, park board sort out their roles
By JOSEPH KOZIOL JR.
Chardon City Council and the city's park and recreation board sorted out their roles last week in a special meeting. The meeting was called to bring the two bodies together to air what they believe are their roles and how the two sides can work better together.
Council President Philip King said the meeting would answer general questions on funding, why one project's cost escalated and coordinating the efforts of both.
Jeff Allenby, who chairs the city's recreation and park board, questioned how fill dirt to be used at a basketball and volleyball court project grew in cost from $8,000 to $24,000.
City Engineer Douglas Courtney said a problem with computer software was responsible for needing to add 1,200 cubic yards of dirt for the project, which increased the cost. "A large chunk of earthwork was missed," he said.
Mr. Allenby also questioned whether that cost could have been reduced by seeking other providers. He said he found suppliers that offered the dirt at $7 to $9 per cubic yard.
Mr. Courtney said that cost likely did not include transportation or the cost for spreading the dirt at the project site. He said the city also is responsible for making sure its contractors pay prevailing wage.
The city did not want to seek other contractors to supply the dirt during the middle of the project, he said, and the main contractor likely would have had to shut down operations while another company graded the site. "That just leads to problems," Mr. Courtney said.
Mr. King said council and the board are interested in containing costs. "I don't want us, as groups, going in opposite directions," he said.
Councilman John Mallen said the added cost would have been needed even if the project had been calculated correctly from the start. "It's the only way it could have turned out," he said.
Mr. King also said the two sides needed to get an understanding of how the funding works. He said some members of the park and recreation board believed council would commit a certain amount of money each year for recreation.
"That forces council to make a decision between road programs and park and recreation programs and other things that we have coming down the pike," Mr. King said.
City Manager David Lelko said he and Finance Director Jeff Smock are responsible for providing council with a budget at the start of each year. He said that budget uses ranges of numbers as they try to determine the costs of projects and operations.
He said all the money comes essentially from the same pot. Mr. Lelko said park and recreation gets approximately $100,000 each year for operations, minor repairs and maintenance. He said a capital-projects fund is used for all capital projects, including the recreation and park department.
The only money dedicated solely to the department comes from donations specified for use by the park and recreation department, grants specific to recreation and money from recreation program fees, he said.
He said that amount is insufficient for a full year of operations and is supplemented through the city's general fund.
Mr. Lelko said when the park and recreation board believes it has a worthy project, it should inform council by September or October when the capital budget is developed.
Mr. Allenby said the board needs funding to hire engineers to provide rough cost estimates for projects. "If I don't have the money, I don't have any ideas to present," he said.
Mr. Lelko said a board representative could come to council seeking money for engineering when it feels a project is needed.
Mr. Courtney said the best approach is to develop a five-year plan for park and recreation. He said the board needs to identify its needs and prioritize them in a five-year plan.
Councilman Mitch Hewitt said he did not believe the city should be committing a certain amount of money each year to recreation because there are no guarantees on what type of revenues the city will receive in a given year.
Mr. Lelko agreed. He said that providing the recreation department with a certain amount each year, means that at times that money will just be sitting there, not making any improvements.
That planning, Assistant City Manager Randal Sharpe said, is also required when the city applies for grants. Those overseeing grants want to see that the city has a formal plan and can justify the project it seeks grants for.
Mr. Smock said there is also a misconception that the city promised voters in 2004 that if an income-tax measure passed, it would guarantee that the park and recreation department would get $400,000 of the revenues. "That's simply not true," he said.
At that time, he said, a memo was sent that listed numerous capital projects as merely "food for thought," rather than actual proposals. He said council never formally adopted it as the memo was strictly meant to suggest how the money could be used.
Mr. Smock said it is difficult for the city to say it definitely will fund any project the park and recreation board comes up with. He said the city faced a $400,000 deficit in income-tax collections last year and is projecting another $250,000 drop this year.
He said the city is not taking money from park and recreation to provide for other projects in the city. He said the city spent less than $13,000 for capital-improvement projects this year, while the park and recreation board got $60,000.
"We're not spending it either," Mr. Smock said. "If we can squeeze money out for you guys, I would be happy to do it."
Park and recreation board member Dean Peska said he appreciated the joint meeting. "It builds a confidence that we're all working together," he said. "It says you are noticing what we're doing and feel there's an importance to it."
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