Thursday, February 7, 2008

Park & Rec Mess

Oh what a tangled web we weave . . .

Recent articles in the Swanton Enterprise have our district residents buzzing about the Park & Rec situation. This link is one article written on the issue: ( ) and this link is the other article: ( ).

Since those articles have appeared, I have had several residents question me on the school board's position.

At the December 2007 school board meeting, with Bill Green presiding as president, Joe Kahl was not re-appointed to his position on the Park & Rec board. In addition, Mr. Kahl was told -again - that a recreation district needed to be pursued. No further action was taken by the board that night.

At the January 2008 school board meeting, Mr. Kahl spoke and told the new Board that the suggestion to create a recreation/park district was in the works. He mentioned that he was meeting with Village Council and had already spoken at length with Mr. Gochenour on the subject, and was confident the issue could be resolved.

In attendance at the January meeting were several members of the Park & Rec board. None chose to speak that evening.

Apparently, Mr. Kahl was in attendance at the subsequent Village Council meeting and spoke to those in attendance. No action was taken at that meeting, but it is interesting that Mr. Kahl was the one doing the talking given that he is no longer on the Park & Rec board. I was not at that meeting - but I am told Mr. Kahl was the only person who spoke on behalf of Park & Rec.

Village council member, Pam Moore, was not in attendance at that meeting, but after reading the minutes of what transpired, she called three school board member to insist that Park & Rec be placed on the ballot ("one more time") to keep it going, as the Village just couldn't do it. She was insistent that it was the only appropriate course of action, in her mind, because the Village simply couldn't handle all the extra work involved and levy monies needed to be pulled from the entire district, not just the Village itself.

Mrs. Moore was unaware that the Park & Rec board had been told to investigate and pursue becoming its own district some two years ago. She was concerned that there wasn't enough time for the Park & Rec board to become an entity in order to place its own levy on a ballot for funding.

I told Mrs. Moore that our situation - with a park levy funneled through the school system, and bumping up against the 20-mil floor - was unique in Ohio. She was unaware of this fact. I explained to her that this situation cost the school district between $58 to $60,000 each year that we could not afford - not to mention the administrative costs involved that are absorbed by the school district as well. She was also unaware of this fact.

I just received an email from our treasurer, Cheryl Swisher. She had a phone call today from Bill Green (former long-term school board member and president) who suggested that the board issue a formal statement to quell the rumors flying around. He said he thinks that the community may think poorly of the fact that the park programs are not given due consideration.

My response to Cheryl was as follows:

My understanding is that the current Board was going to discuss Park & Rec at our next open meeting before we issued an official statement. It is a weighty matter that requires open dialogue, and not something to be debated behind closed doors - which is also a huge sore spot with our residents. My personal concern is that Pam Moore of Village Council has made a statement to the Enterprise that basically said she had called each Board member individually and was pleased with the result, leaving the impression that her personal lobbying efforts were smoothing over the problem to allow Park & Rec to be placed on the Nov. ballot. I have heard from several residents who were NOT pleased with what they perceive as "back door politics". So I was glad to be able to tell them that this School Board would discuss the matter openly - they were invited to attend - and our decision would be forged and shared publicly.

As for Mr. Green suggesting that the programs are not being given "due consideration", I would remind him that the former board of which he was a highly visible member had attempted to get the Park & Rec people to clean up their act for over 6 years. From my perspective, that certainly looks like more than enough time for "due consideration". The trouble is that the public at large is unaware of these facts - it is now up to us to get them informed.

I believe that podcasting the recordings of our open meetings will go a long way in providing full disclosure to our district residents.

It would be best for Mr. Green to share his concerns at an open board meeting with everyone else, during our Public Comment timeframe.

To date, there has been no further discussion of the Park & Rec situation since the January 2008 school board meeting. However, I am certain that this issue will be discussed at our next public meeting to be held Tuesday, February 19th at 7 p.m. Only by addressing this issue openly can the school board hear from its constituents, discuss all aspects of the problem, and come to a rational conclusion that keeps the interest of the Swanton Local School District paramount.

I hope to see you that evening, and hear your comments. In addition, I am hopeful that we will be able to begin podcasting our meetings to keep all of our residents apprised of what is happening in their school district.

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