News and Tribune

February 15, 2013

NASH: Are we better off?

By MATTHEW NASH
Local columnist

— A few days ago President and General Manager of WAVE-TV Ken Selvaggi opined that New Albany and Floyd County should merge services in order to ease some of our funding issues. He pointed to the separate call centers for 911 dispatch and two parks departments in the same county. His point was that in these troubled times it doesn’t make sense to duplicate services.

I don’t know if Mr. Selvaggi has ever been to New Albany or Floyd County, but his television station sends its trucks here every time they are covering murder trials. Those same murder trials have been used as an excuse for years in order for the county to shirk the responsibility to help pay for park services. For years the leaders of Floyd County have argued that proper funding of the parks is not a priority, citing the David Camm murder trial as their main reason. 

I am not sure if the president and general manager of a major television station has the ability to follow the day-to-day operations of our city and county, but I have never seen a member of their staff reporting on one of our council meetings. I was at the county council meeting where they released the budget with only half the money needed to fully fund their share of the combined New Albany-Floyd County Parks and Recreation Department and there were no television cameras there.

The Floyd County Council, which holds the purse strings for the county’s budget, claimed that just because they only could budget half of what was needed, they had every intention of living up to their obligation, even though they had spent several years ducking the responsibility to fund the department equally with the city. Council members continually denied that they had any knowledge of an agreement to fund the department properly or were they willing to make amends for past inadequacies. 

They claimed they couldn’t change the past, they just wanted to move forward. I believe that they could have committed to additional funding to make up for previous shortfalls, but they were unwilling to do that. Had they been willing to at least try to bring their budget in line with what the city was paying, I think that splitting the parks may not have been necessary.  

Mayor Jeff Gahan, as the leader for the residents of New Albany, did what he thought was in the best interest for city residents. Without a stable commitment from Floyd County leaders, after years of negligence, he decided that the time had come for the city to move on. For years, city residents had paid more money into the parks department while the county said, “at least we’re doing better than Clark County.” 

Clark County has multiple municipal parks departments within its borders. They have multiple outdoor water facilities and multiple baseball complexes. 

The Floyd council members claimed if the parks department needed more money all it had to do was ask. They failed to remember that they had been asked several times in the past and each time the parks department was denied. In December 2011, the department asked for $250,000 to fulfill the council’s obligation. The council voted down a $100,000 compromise before agreeing to $50,000. 

Why should anyone believe that they have any intentions of living up to their agreements?

Earlier this week, New Albany Little League announced plans for a new baseball and softball complex to be located near the Interstate 265 interchange. Floyd County has been announced as partners in the plan. 

I think it is great the New Albany Little League could soon begin the process of moving to a better location, but am curious as to why they have chosen to collaborate with a group who has been unwilling to spend any money in the last 10 years unless it had to do with law enforcement?

New Albany Little League can play baseball wherever it sees fit, but some questions have been raised to the accessibility to the planned site, especially to inner-city children who would benefit the most from Little League Baseball. I personally would prefer that New Albany Little League be played within the confines of the city of New Albany.

When the plan was first announced to split the parks, I wasn’t sure if I agreed with it or not, but now I think it will ultimately benefit the residents of our city. New Albany and Floyd County are two distinct places with citizens with different needs. The things that are needed in a city park, are not necessarily the same things that are needed in a county park.

For years the leaders have been at odds at who should pay for what. Now it looks like the leaders of Floyd County are willing to spend a little money on its parks department if only to show New Albany up.

If that’s what it takes, I guess it will have to live with it.

— Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com