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The Proposal: Parks board may be poised to make change

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - There has been no decision made but there is no doubt a strong feeling that the Bullitt County Parks Board could propose a change in the operation of its program.

On Thursday, several individuals from the public posed questions and concerns to the parks board. The comments would play a part in the board’s recommendation to Bullitt Fiscal Court.

Although no decision has been made, parks board chairman Steve Larimore said there is a feeling that fiscal court would be asked to allow the Bullitt County YMCA to manage the sports programs while the parks and recreation department would still maintain control.

But that premise was just one of the questions that concerned members of the audience.

Paul Kulmer, a long-time participant in the parks programs in a number of capacities, wondered if the YMCA would retain the same access to gym time in the schools.

Terry Price, one of two school system representatives on the parks board, said there would be no changes in the usage policy. There is a priority scale on who is using the gym time.

And with the opening of two new schools and the return of several others after renovations, Price said the precious gym time could improve over the next year.

Phyllis Wehrenberg, who spent over 25 years as assistant director with the parks program, said she hated to see all the efforts over that time to be simply shoveled aside.

She didn’t understand how one agency could be asked to manage programs and another one still be in control.

A time crunch is approaching as basketball signups will soon begin. She said you can say that basketball with over 1,000 players can be run within a three-month span.

She agreed that a five-person parks and recreation staff may not be needed but it will take longer than three months to set up, organize and run the basketball program, the county’s biggest.

Over the years, Wehrenberg said she saw the baseball program decrease as talk of construction of a new Roby Elementary started. With the loss of fields, baseball and softball players went to Mount Washington or Blue Lick, each having over 600 ball players.

“I’m not going to change anyone’s mind,” said Wehrenberg. “But you must have the support of the fiscal court to do anything.”

She said the reason the parks board quit meeting years ago was because any good ideas presented to fiscal court were dismissed without consideration.

Larimore, who worked as the county parks director for a year in the 1980s, didn’t disagree with his former co-worker’s comments.

His concern was that the county has done nothing more than to present sports programs for those 18 and under. He said the county has done nothing to develop its parks program.

Over a three-year period, Larimore said the county general fund had to subsidize the parks department over $720,000 to balance its budget. Most of that was taken up in salaries.

Currently, Ed Etherton is the interim parks director after the resignation of Kendall Grant. There is also a maintenance person who spends part of his time working on the swimming pools and the rest on the ball fields.

To make sure the swimming pools opened, a management agreement for the summer was reached with the Bullitt County YMCA. The county pledged to cover losses of up to $45,000.

Through June, Larimore said the YMCA had not reported any losses, part due to the extremely hot and humid weather.

From his standpoint, the best deal would be to let the YMCA operate the pools, baseball, basketball and tae kwon do.

Larimore did ask but did not receive a vote from fiscal court on the possibility of setting aside the $120,000 budgeted this year for salaries not being needed into an account to maintain green space.

He said a spray water park is needed in Lebanon Junction, where the swimming pool was recently closed permanently, and in Nichols, on county owned land behind the elementary school.

He also wanted to solicit donations of green space in small tracts throughout the county for park areas. Money would be needed to maintain these areas.

“We’ve done a good job in recreation,” said Larimore. “But we’ve never done anything on the parks side.”

With the YMCA taking care of the sports programs, Larimore said the parks department could concentrate on green space areas.

During a series of special meetings earlier this year, the biggest concerns came from the basketball program.

Larimore said a committee would be formed to basically direct the YMCA how the leagues should be operated. There would be competitive leagues and he wasn’t worried about another league coming into the county due to gym space.

If there was a private entity, like Hoops or Basketball Academy, in the county, Larimore said the basketball program could have been in trouble years ago.

Robin Pound, who has instructed the Tae Kwon Do classes for the parks over the past 12 years, said many don’t know that program is offered.

Since the YMCA also offers the Tae Kwon Do program, Pound wanted to know the fate of her style of traditional teaching.

June Daugherty, executive director of the YMCA, said she didn’t see any need to change any of the existing programs.

Price said that many people look to the parks department to give them places to have a picnic or to take a walk. He said the county hasn’t done that well.

Larimore agreed. For a county of 80,000 people, he called it a crime that no more is offered in terms of parks area.

The goal would be to have another parks board meeting in the coming weeks and then have a recommendation for fiscal court’s meeting on Aug. 3. Due to the approaching basketball signups, Larimore said something must be decided soon.