April 17, 2024

Council reviews park board layout

McKinley Lake, a popular spot for fishing, is part of a $2 million dredging project.

Changes may be coming to the Creston Parks and Recreation Board. Creston City Council looked Tuesday at possible changes to the ordinance surrounding number of board members and clarify the roles and powers of the board, though no decisions were made.

Proposed changes to the organization of the board include adding two members, changing board terms to four years instead of six and having board positions be appointed by the mayor and city council rather than voted. Board duties are clarified and listed.

Before council discussions began, the three parks and rec board members each gave their opinion on the proposed changes during the public forum.

Board member Gary Borcherding shared the various projects completed by the board from the last 19 years, all completed with money from grants or fundraisers.

“To date, with donations, grants and the bond issue that was passed by the community for McKinley Lake, we have put over $6.5 million back into this community without it coming off the tax rolls,” Borcherding said. “I would like to take this time to ask the council to hold off on whatever this plan they’ve got is until after these major projects are done. Don’t fix what’s not broken.”

Board member John Kawa said he didn’t understand why any changes were needed. Kawa said this scrutiny at the parks and rec board would lead to unfortunate consequences.

“We are currently working on the lake dredging project. Bad publicity like this will not help us,” Kawa said. “The DNR will see the city council and the park board not getting along and maybe not help us as much as they could, just common human nature. I would think the council has enough problems.

Kawa also said these proposals were the result of a “personal vendetta” from a councilmember.

“What we do is working fine, we don’t need help or changes. I think if anything, this board and committee deserves a pat on the back, not a slap in the face,” Kawa said. “I urge the council to see this for what it is and drop this before it hurts Creston and goes any further.”

Katie Turner, who joined the board in January, spoke in favor of the changes.

“It would be nice to have more than three on the board at times to help make decisions that are large decisions like a director,” Turner said. A board must have at least three members present to make any decisions.

Turner also spoke in favor of adding board members from outside of city limits. Previously a member of the Creston Municipal Airport board, she said adding county residents to the board helped fill vacancies.

Turner suggested clarifying roles and duties on the board would be a good thing, as clarification is needed daily in life. Overall, she appreciated the work that previous board members had done, but said change was good.

“I do not think that change is something that should be feared. I think it’s something that should be embraced and I think that there’s a positive in all of this,” Turner said. “I only hope that my opinion here is not something that will be held to a negative within anyone in this room.”

As the city council began discussing the proposed changes, Kiki Scarberry, who brought the proposal forward, shared her reasoning.

“These changes are intended to refine and improve our current system. The fundamentals on how the board will operate will remain intact,” Scarberry said. “This ordinance is a thoughtful and necessary step towards enhancing our park management, enforcing our commitment to community engagement, excellence and public service. Our focus should be on improving efficiency, clarity and inclusivity in our processes.”

Other councilmembers had a couple concerns regarding changes for new board members. Richard Madison and Matt Levine were against having people outside of city limits eligible for the park board.

“I understand the idea that people outside of the community are involved, but I still want to see them paying taxes to be on the board,” Madison said.

Councilmember Martin Graham said he understood this reasoning, but thought people outside of city limits were still community members.

“I don’t think it should be, you can’t pay this unless you’re paying property taxes. Well what if I have a business and I am? What if I have kids in school? You’re still a community,” Graham said. “Most of the improvements that have been made in the park over all these last 19, 20 years, none of it has been tax money, right?”

Levine countered that tax money pays park employees and any repairs needed. Madison also pointed out that, while the public voted to put $2 million toward the lake dredging project, the project was still being paid by taxpayer money.

Scarberry suggested keeping the five board members in city limits, but looking at Union County residents if the board struggled with vacancies.

Levine and Josh Thompson also voiced concern with changing to board appointments rather than having the public vote on board members.

“We’re going to make them appointed like every other board? We’re going to take the ability for a citizen to vote them in away from them? I don’t really care for that,” Levine said. “It just seems more direct to have the people vote them in.”

However, Wintermute, Madison and Scarberry were in favor of appointments.

“I just think you have a lot less people that will run on a ballot than will put an application in to be on a board,” Scarberry said.

Councilmember Jocelyn Blazek was not in attendance.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.