The Ward City Council gave up Monday on keeping the city Parks and Recreation Commission alive and voted to shut it down. The newly established city Parks and Recreation Department will take up many of the functions of the commission.
The council also agreed to look into supporting a school resource officer position at Ward Central Elementary School.
Mayor Art Brooke and aldermen Bill Moon, Lee Schoonover, Jeff Shaver, John Staley and Don Howard attended the meeting. Charles Gastineau was absent.
At the July 9 city council meeting, aldermen discussed the possibility of decommissioning the Ward Parks and Recreation Commission. They acted on the recommendation Monday evening by approving an ordinance repealing the action that established the commission.
Brooke said keeping commission members had become a chronic problem. Most of the volunteers were military members who, though diligent, ended up deploying for up to a year.
"It created quite a hardship," he said.
The new city department organizationally will fall under the mayor’s office.
Schoonover cautioned against considering Parks and Recreation as a profit-making operation.
"Parks and recreation is not a money making project. It is a quality of life thing," he said.
The council members approved three readings of the ordinance, and the addition of an emergency clause, making the action effective immediately.
Brooke called on the council to consider funding a school resource officer to be assigned to Ward Central Elementary School. The mayor said his request was prompted by the persistent encouragement of Moon. The position would be a part-time one.
Brooke suggested a pilot program that would last until the end of the year. If it proves having an SRO is of value, then the city could find funding maintain it, he said.
Schoonover said he preferred that the city fund the position rather than split the cost with the school district.
"If the school helps fund it, then you are obligated to them for certain things," he said.
Staley, who is Austin’s chief of police, said that there could be a problem with a division of duties.
"You have to put a stipulation in that [the officer] is a policeman first," he said.
Brooke said any program first needs coordination with school officials, and planning in order to "shake an officer loose."
"That’s why I think a pilot program would be a good idea," he said.
Moon said his understanding is that having an officer present in the morning and afternoon is what is wanted.
Shaver said that any consideration has to include school administrators.
"We need to make sure that whatever we agree on is first proposed by the principal," he said.
Otherwise, what the council proposes may not meet the needs of the school, Shaver said.
The council approved adding $2,000 to the budget to cover the cost of an SRO and to meet with school administrators to determine what services are needed.
In other matters, council members approved the purchase of a new telephone system for the city municipal complex.
The council accepted the Planning Commission recommendation to approve the final plat for the Mill Creek subdivision. The 24-lot subdivision is off Moon Road, south of the junction with Wilson Loop.
Dave Stanley of Lemons Engineering Consultants reviewed the status of the city’s projects.
Construction of the Safe Route to School sidewalks has begun, with the walkways closest to the school already completed, Stanley said.
"As of today, all construction on the school property is complete," he said.
Stanley praised Cinergi Contractors of Sherwood for the work they have already done and for going beyond the scope of the work.
"They have done a lot of cleanup … to make sure things are dressed up for the school," Stanley said. "[Cinergi] has cleaned out some drains and got water moving on the site that was not moving before. We appreciate the work they have done to get the school expedited so that when school starts next week we won’t have wet concrete, and kids walking though it."
He said that Cinergi owner Tom Brooks has been visiting property owners along the project route to ensure they understand what is happening.
After the meeting, Brooks said he has found taking the extra step to speak with property owners "goes a long way to avoiding problems."
Explaining the work, and that the walkways are being put on the city’s right-of-way, also helps direct objections to city officials, the mayor said.
"Not all of them, but most, anyway. Some people still get pretty upset with sidewalks being put on what they feel is their property," he said.
The sidewalk project should be done within several weeks, Stanley said.
The Willow Lake walking trail project is now awaiting news on the state parks and recreation grant application. It is hoped to fund most of the project with the grant.
"It won’t be 100 percent," he said.
The grant is a 50-50 split, with in-kind contribution allowed for the city’s portion, Stanley said. A portion will likely be a cash contribution, but the majority will probably be in-kind labor.
"Hopefully by October or November, we will hear something," Stanley said.
On the Stagecoach Road million-gallon water storage tank, construction should be completed soon.
"The painting is about 95 percent done," he said.
The fate of the old tank at the site is yet to be determined. After the new tank is in operation, a detailed inspection will be done of the old tank before deciding whether or not to keep it in service, Stanley said.
At the request of Brooke, the council approved changing the next council meeting to Sept. 17. Brooke said the change was needed because of several scheduling conflicts.