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Columns

April 6, 2012

NASH: Let’s agree to fund our parks

NEW ALBANY — It was the summer of 2009 when I first made the decision to write this weekly column. One of the things I had to do to get the job was to submit a few samples of my writing so they could gauge my ability. The first few columns  I wrote over a couple of days and the words seemed to flow naturally.  Over the few years that I have been doing this I realized this is often the case when I am very passionate about the subject matter.

One of those first columns that I submitted nearly three years ago was one about the need for an outdoor water facility in Floyd County. In 2008 the New Albany-Floyd County Parks Department made the decision to close the aging Camille Wright Pool because of the rising cost of maintaining the 40-year-old facility. Nearly three years ago I was advocating that it was time to start planning so that we could start building as soon as possible.

In that column I pointed to Clark County and their various government agencies being able to maintain multiple public swimming pools for their citizens. Now after all these years we are still no closer to having a new swimming pool in Floyd County than we were more than four years ago.  

Why is it so hard to get things done here?

This was my original analysis on why the project was having so much trouble even getting started:   “New Albany and Floyd County governments have a very bad track record when it comes to working together on capital projects.” I followed that up by saying “…one group is always worried that the other side will not pay their fair share.” That point has been highlighted several times since I originally made that statement.

Over the last several months the city and the county have argued over the current funding agreement of the entire parks budget. One county councilman even stated to me that “the county can not find anything on paper that actually says we are in an agreement with the city.”  

Floyd County government officials have been unwilling to live up to their obligation and to fund the parks department equally with the city of New Albany. Some county officials say they will not consider living up to their current agreement until there is a new one in place. I am sure in their minds this statement makes sense.

In the current agreement, which has been around since 1992, the city and the county are suppose to each contribute to the parks department budget equally. It has been reported that the city of New Albany has paid up to $2 million more than Floyd County over the last few years. Had the leaders in Floyd County just lived up to their obligation, maybe we would be considerably closer in making a new outdoor water facility a reality.

I believe that besides the annual operating budget that New Albany and Floyd County each pay for, there should be a contribution to a cumulative capital fund that could be used to improve facilities on a regular basis. Using money from the annual budget to fund long term projects makes it impossible to plan for the future, especially if the budget is slashed year after year.  

It seems that some people think that funding the parks department is not as important as other things.  I believe that a thriving parks system is an asset to this community and increases the quality of life for all citizens. By creating an attractive environment for the populace it makes Floyd County more attractive to people who are willing to invest money in this community. Maybe if local leaders could look at the big picture they would understand this simple principle.

If we are going to have a vibrant parks department here in Floyd County with facilities that all citizens can be proud of, every government body must agree on how much will be paid and then live up to that agreement. Unless everyone is onboard with the new agreement, it is not worth the paper it is printed on. It is time for the elected officials of New Albany and Floyd County to agree to fund the parks department properly and figure out a way to build and maintain a swimming pool for our county. I believe the citizens deserve it.

Matthew Nash can be reached at dmatthewnash@gmail.com

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