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Business/Money

April 18, 2012

Parks authority to be re-established in Jeffersonville

Questions were raised about the legitimacy of state law

JEFFERSONVILLE — A months-old discord between the Jeffersonville City Council and Mayor Mike Moore regarding who oversees city parks seems to have been resolved following council action this week.

On Monday, the council took an initial vote on an ordinance that re-establishes the Jeffersonville Parks Authority — a board populated by council members. It will put parks squarely in the council’s purview, after Moore called its legal legitimacy into question after taking office this year. It’s a cause he said he’s given up on now.

“I contacted the council members, told them it wasn’t worth the fight,” he said. “I don’t think the people of Jeffersonville want to see the mayor and council bicker over little things.”

The heart of the conflict has been the city’s population size and classification. The latest U.S. Census count puts Jeffersonville’s population at 44,953. Based on that population size, the state classifies it as a second-class city.

However, the Indiana statute under which the parks authority was created applies to third-class municipalities with populations less than 35,000. Jeffersonville fit that category when the council created the parks authority in 2008.

Based on that statutory inconsistency, Moore had called for the creation of a five-member parks board, which he would appoint and serve on. In response, council members enlisted the help of state Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, to change state law in a way that allows Jeffersonville to keep authorities. Grooms — a former city councilman and past president of the parks authority — penned an amendment to Senate Bill 115 that allows just that.

Initially, Moore and his staff questioned whether the amendment was applicable to Jeffersonville because of the way it’s worded. Jeffersonville corporation counsel Tom Lowe noted that the legislation specifically references cities that adopted second-class status as a result of the 2010 census. However, the ordinance that made Jeffersonville a second-class city was passed in 2009 and relies on a survey that uses data from the 2000 census.

Scott Lewis, attorney for the council, acknowledged questions about whether or not it applied, but said the legislative intent was for Jeffersonville to be included. The amendment triggered the need for the re-establishment vote. The council cast an 8-0 vote in favor of the ordinance [Councilman Nathan Samuel being absent] with little discussion.

Another vote will be necessary before it’s finalized. The parks authority meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month in the mayor’s conference room at Jeffersonville City Hall.

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