Questions remain on sportsplex transfer

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, August 31, 2004

MONTICELLO – Questions remain about how to structure a cityparks commission to the Atwood Water Park and Lawrence CountySportsplex .

County supervisors are expected Monday to approve a proposalthat would transfer the sportsplex to the city in exchange for theold Monticello Police Department building and other property. Cityaldermen also are expected to approve the proposal when it comesbefore them Tuesday.

Currently, each facility is managed by its own commission. TheCity Parks Board oversees the water park, while the sportsplex hasbeen managed by the Lawrence County Sportsplex Association, anonprofit organization. Each committee has decision-makingauthority but must report to its overseeing government body.Committee members in both groups are appointed and volunteer theirtime.

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City aldermen and sportsplex committee members are cooperatingto determine the best way to incorporate the complex into cityoperations.

One proposal is to combine the two five-member managerialauthorities into one ten-member committee.

“The Sportsplex Committee has done a great job in running andimproving the sportsplex. We want to do our best to accommodatethem and keep them a part of the process,” said Mayor DavidNichols.

A ten-member City Parks Commission would manage both facilitiesif the committees are combined. A single commission would allow thecommittee to provide balanced growth and improvements at thefacilities.

The sportsplex committee would lose its nonprofit designation ifmerged with the parks commission, however. The designation has, inthe past, allowed them to compete for grants not available togovernmental agencies.

By keeping the committees separate, both facilities could applyfor the same grants.

“One of the advantages of having separate committees is that wecould double-up on grant applications,” Nichols said. “That wouldincrease our chances of receiving one.”

Funding is also a consideration. While the city funds the parkscommission, the sportsplex has been self-funded. The sportsplexstill has operating funds and committee members have voiced concernthat funds could be diverted to the water park.

City officials have assured them that would not happen.

In anticipation of the acquisition, aldermen have budgeted acity parks director and a full-time employee for the departmentinto next year’s budget.

The parks director would be responsible for the maintenance andupkeep at both facilities and for scheduling events andtournaments. He or she also would oversee the sports leagues.

The sportsplex has softball and soccer fields and plays host toleagues for both each year.

Sportsplex committee members have expressed some concern that aparks director would cut them out of managing the park.

Aldermen have assured them the parks director would be a cityemployee but would report to them. He suggested monthly meetingsbetween the director and the board, or boards, where the directorcould make recommendations for them to approve. The director thencould bring the board’s, or boards’, recommendations to the cityfor final approval.

Until these questions, and other minor issues, are resolved, thecommittees will continue to operate as separate entities should thecounty and city approve the proposal next week.

Kenny Platt, a member of the sportsplex committee, said he isconfident they will reach an agreement acceptable to all butcautioned it may take some time to sort through the details.

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