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Court wants to revive parks board

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Parks and Recreation/YMCA Partnership?

By The Staff

    SHEPHERDSVILLE - Whether a partnership between the Bullitt Fiscal Court and the YMCA Bullitt County branch materializes with the parks and recreation department still hasn’t been decided.

    However, it appears there will be a revitalized county parks board, which hasn’t met in several years.

    After hearing comments at its second night-time forum on the partnership proposal, fiscal court members seemed poised to make sure the five-member board reformed in some shape and form.

    The special fiscal court meeting appeared ready to close without any comments. However, Swannie Jett, director of the Bullitt County Public Health Department, offered some thoughts on the county’s total health system.

    That would include the health department, fiscal court, the YMCA and the parks department. He said there are many needs in the county to help improve the overall health of the community.

    Magistrate David Walker said that the court members wanted to hear comments and suggestions from the public. At the first hearing, there were comments on both sides of the partnership proposal and most speakers were favored one side or the other.

    The goal is to have the best parks and recreation program possible, according to Walker. The goal is not to eliminate any jobs.

    He felt the county and the YMCA could work together. He pointed to a project over the past two weeks where the two parties worked to get the Bullitt Central swimming pool open for the summer.

    Kendall Grant, the county’s parks and recreation director, said his personal desire would be to remain a separate agency. He said the deficit of the department is not as great as has been reported.

    Grant, who worked for current YMCA executive director June Daugherty prior to taking the county position, said there is no doubt the two agencies could work together.

    The county’s basketball program has well over 1,000 participants and Grant said there are few complaints. He felt that program was as well managed as any in the region.

    “I hate to see a good program like basketball suffer,” said Grant. “But it may not.”

    He has heard rumors that Mount Washington, which accounts for about 60 percent of the youth participants in basketball, would start its own program is a partnership was formed.

    One solution might be to allow the YMCA to run and operate the three swimming pools slated to open this summer and the parks department would keep control of the rest.

    Daugherty said the YMCA is ready to provide any assistance needed in terms of management. She said the agency has various partnerships in the county and all operate well.

    Despite several requests from members of the audience, Daugherty said the YMCA doesn’t have a plan ready to present over the partnership. She said that would have to come after an interest is shown.

    Charlie Hall said that he was looking toward his county officials for leadership and some sense of fiscal responsibility.

    As a taxpayer, Hall said he is concerned that the county is able to pay its bills. There may be a need to cut expenses or generate more revenue for the parks department.

    “I expect you to show leadership,” Hall said to fiscal court members. “You have to be fiscally responsible.”

    Kevin Bickett has been a coach in both programs’ basketball leagues. He had no complaints.

    However, he would like to see something done to revive the county’s baseball and softball programs. Prior to construction on the new Roby Elementary, which took away the two larger fields, Bickett said the county had a nice facility that could offer tournaments to generate funds.

    The softball program is gone and baseball players are moving to leagues like Blue Lick and Mount Washington.

    Grant said that since construction is done, the fields are in good shape and there are concessions available for the games.

    In comparing the agencies, the county offers baseball, softball, basketball for youth and adults, tae kwon do classes and four swimming pools, three of which will open on time when school lets out.

    Daugherty said the YMCA provides Before and After School care, child care on snow days, Tween Extreme camp, soccer, basketball and baseball. Swimming lesions and senior water therapy is offered at two indoor pools and the Vine Street facility has health and wellness classes, a complete fitness program, two racquetball courts, a wellness center and child care.

    Randy Nalley said he felt the parks department should remain under the direction of fiscal court.

    One resident inquired if the YMCA could afford to operate the pools and the ball fields.

    Daugherty said the YMCA has looked at the revenue and the expenses and believes it could be done.

    Magistrate Joe Laswell said the operation of the pools is the big drain on the parks budget.

    “There’s going to have to be some hard decisions made,” said Laswell.

    Bob McGee said he loved the current parks program. If revenue is needed, the county should look at possibly increasing fees.

    Laswell and fellow magistrate Eddie Bleemel felt more discussion on things such as the pool could solve some of the issues. Last year, only two pools opened after fiscal court members learned late in the spring that federal safety guidelines had to be met before the facilities could open. Maryville and Mount Washington pools opened but were only operational for a portion of the swimming season.

    Walker said he would like to see the parks board be reborn.

    “See if they can come up with a plan,” said Walker. “What we’re lacking is a plan.

    Walker could envision representatives from the school system, health department, YMCA, extension service and parks department on the board.

    Bickett said if such a board is formed, Bullitt Fiscal Court must support the efforts and recommendations.

    “I haven’t seen it in the past,” said Bickett.

    County attorney Walter Sholar said the parks board is to make recommendations to fiscal court, which funds the parks department through the general fund.

    Bernie Brown, who served with Walker on the parks board in the mid-1990s, said those members are the ones who should come with a plan and ideas.

    Grant said the board dissolved basically because some of the appointing bodies didn’t place people on the committee and others lost interest.

    Jett said that his agency would definitely want to be a part of the new board. However, he recommended maybe a different title for the committee.

    If the board has a title relating to wellness, Jett predicted there would be federal stimulus dollars available for projects. He said there could be more grant opportunities if the board is titled properly.

    The school system makes an appointment annually to the parks board. Steve Thompson, director of buildings and grounds, is the appointee. The school system is part of the board as it owns the property where the ball fields are located behind Roby Elementary.

    No decision could be made on the parks board at the special meeting.