PECULIAR — The Peculiar Board of Aldermen met for their work session Monday night and the bulk of the meeting was consumed by a discussion about the City’s Park Board.
Alderman Homer Dunsworth, liaison to the Park Board, has reported on more than one occasion that he believes the group is dysfunctional and needs to be removed or significantly changed. Monday night, the Aldermen discussed with members of the Park Board what problems exist and how to correct them.
“This is not a staff directive. This is an Aldermen directive. This is a policy decision by the Aldermen,” stated City Administrator Brad Ratliff.
To begin, Alderman Bob Fines explained why he thought the Park Board should be dissolved.
“There were a lot of times that people didn’t even call in or show up,” Fines said. The Alderman explained that he had not attended the Parks and Recreation meetings but that he was making his conclusion based on the meeting minutes.
Fines expressed his trust of Dunsworth’s opinion as the liaison to the Park Board and said that some volunteers do not understand how much work it takes to get things done in the City.
“What I see is a dysfunctional Board,” Fines concluded.
Donald Turner disagreed.
“This would be a great disservice to the community if the Park Board was dissolved,” the Alderman said.
Turner stated that oversight is needed in making decisions regarding the City’s parks and recreational activities and that if there is no Park Board there would be no oversight.
Alderman Dunsworth defended himself, saying, “Right now it’s not working,” and “Time is not on our side.” Dunsworth also brought up the lack of progress with Raisbeck Park.
At the beginning of 2013, Parks Director Nathan Musteen and the Park Board began discussions on how to prepare Raisbeck Park for youth soccer leagues in spring 2014. Through disagreements and setbacks, the Board was unable to obtain the appropriate RFQs (Request for Qualifications) and FEMA permit to sow the grass seed that would make for a usable soccer field in the next year.
“There are things that have taken months that should have taken one meeting,” Dunsworth said.
Alderman Mike Gallagher said that there is “enough blame to go around,” and Veronika Ray said, “We need to think about the kids and places for the citizens of Peculiar to go.”
After the Aldermen gave their opinions on the situation, members of the Park Board, who showed up in good numbers, made their way to the podium to express their opinions.
“There has been a lot of fighting…in the Park Board,” said newly elected Park Board President Andrew Boston.
Boston went on to say that people get heated in the meetings but that is not to say there has been no progress.
“I think doing away with the Park Board would be horrible,” he continued.
“Nathan [Musteen] is great and knows what he’s doing,” he said as he described that there needs to be more vision in the Parks Department than just Musteen’s.
Doug Stark, Park Board member and husband of Alderman Holly Stark, also spoke.
“I feel like a lot of this is pointed directly at me,” he said, citing differences with Alderman Dunsworth.
Stark claims that the City needs to have a Park Board if it expects to progress and grow.
Kelsey McCray, secretary for the Park Board, echoed the same thoughts expressed by Boston and Stark. She also reiterated Alderman Turner’s point that doing away with the Park Board would be a “disservice to the community.”
“I do not think that the Park Board should be held accountable or told we are holding things up,” she concluded.
Before McCray left the podium, Alderman Dunsworth asked her about the progress that was made by the Park Board before Musteen joined the City as the Director.
Dunsworth’s point was that since much did not get accomplished before the arrival of Musteen to City Staff, the Park Board would not have much to offer him in the future. The Board’s response was that the current group of volunteers is relatively new so there should be more chances given for them to prove that the group can work.
Dunsworth also mentioned several organizations and events in years past that were established before a Park Board even existed. Alderman Stark, who did not make many comments throughout the meeting, pointed out that non-profit organizations were instrumental in that and several of the organizations are no longer in existence.
Mayor Ernie Jungmeyer had the final word on the discussion, saying that he agreed with the view expressed by Alderman Turner.
“And I don’t do that very often,” the Mayor joked.
As the resolution to dissolve the Park Board came to a vote, it ended in a 3-3 tie with Aldermen Dunsworth, Fines, and Gallagher in support of it. Mayors are not allowed to break the tie in City of Peculiar resolution votes; however, when the resolution vote ends in a tie it automatically fails.
After all was said and done, the Aldermen of Peculiar decided to keep the Park Board, though they all agreed that better communication and direction need to be implemented.
In other business, the Aldermen elected to put a one-cent fuel tax on the ballot in the April 8 election. The money collected will be used strictly for City street maintenance.