Deal with county may give city sportsplex

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Lawrence County Sportsplex may come under new management ina deal being negotiated between county supervisors and cityaldermen.

The city board approved negotiations on a proposal by the countyboard of supervisors that would see the sportsplex and a bushhogcome to the city in exchange for the old police department on BroadStreet, half the materials for a new roof and an old dump truck foruse at the county’s landfill.

Kenny Platt, Denise Weeks and Jeff Mitchell of the LawrenceCounty Sportsplex Association, the facility’s governing agency,attended the town meeting Tuesday night to discuss their concernswith the proposal.

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Mayor David Nichols informed the association of plans for thefacility should both county and city approve the swap.

Under the city plan, the name of the facility would not changeand few changes would be made in its operation.

“We don’t want the kids to lose anything they already have,”Nichols stressed several times during the meeting. “And we think wehave a lot we can offer to the park that could only make itbetter.”

One of those changes, he said, has already been budgeted fornext year. The city is planning to advertise later this year for afull-time parks director to oversee the Atwood Water Park, and thecity envisions the sportsplex also falling under his purview. Asecond full-time employee would also be hired to performlandscaping and maintenance at both parks.

“We think if the sportsplex had a full-time person there itcould be a revenue producer,” Nichols said.

Mitchell said the association had concerns that the city wouldchange their operations. The sportsplex is entirelyself-funded.

He said the sportsplex provides all-star uniforms and trophiesthat are funded by entry fees from tournaments and he wouldn’t liketo see that service changed to where parents had to pay additionalfees to pay for those.

“It is a money-maker,” he said, “but you can’t go into it tomake money other than to cover expenses.”

District Four Alderman Dick Reeves assured the associationmembers that was also their intent. He said he felt any moneyreceived by the sportsplex should be returned to them to fundimprovements and provide for those type of services. A murmur ofagreement came from the entire board.

The city board praised the association members, who are allvolunteers, for their work on the sportsplex, and said they wantedto work with them on what is best for the facility.

They discussed whether it would be best to merge the sportsplexboard with the city’s recreation department or to keep themseparate. Each member of the sportsplex committee would receive aseat on the expanded recreation board should they choose to merge,aldermen agreed.

The proposed the expanded committee meet once each month withthe parks director and make recommendations to the city board.

“The board would be the governing authority because ofliability, but the advisory committee would really be making thedecisions,” Nichols said.

The parks director, both sides agreed, would serve under bothauthorities.

“They’ll be employees of the city, but they would answer to thecommittee,” Reeves said.

The association members, who were admittedly apprehensive aboutthe proposal, left feeling comfortable about the plan, Plattsaid.

“I feel like we can work it all out for everyone’s bestinterests, but it may take a year or two to sort out all thedetails,” he said.

One of those details, Platt said, is what would become of theplayground committee. The playground committee was formed as aseparate entity to work with the association in establishing aplayground at the sportsplex. They add equipment as they can affordit.

Supervisors were ready to approve the swap at Monday’s meeting,he said, but the association asked them to wait until they couldconsult with the city about their plans for the facility.

Based on the night’s discussion, Platt said he believes theassociation will recommend supervisors accept the swap at theirnext meeting.