By CHRIS MORRIS
NEW ALBANY —
Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, Floyd County will have its own parks and recreation department.
At a special meeting Tuesday night at the Pine View Government Center, the Floyd County Commissioners unanimously approved the property/equipment split which was negotiated with New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan and approved by the New Albany Board of Works.
The county will take control of seven parks, which equal 370 acres, 13 shelter houses and the Southern Indiana Sports Center.
The county parks budget for 2013 is $541,000. Director of Floyd County Operations and Planner Don Lopp estimates revenue of $705,000. The county will also receive $180,000 from a joint account when it splits with the city.
“I think we have an unbelievable opportunity when it comes to the parks. We want to create a top-notch parks and recreation department,” Lopp said during a presentation to the commissioners and Floyd County Council Tuesday.
Lopp said the county has had six weeks since the New Albany City Council agreed to split the joint parks department to put a plan together. During that period, potential employees have been interviewed, financial analysis and a budget have been completed. City and county officials also negotiated the split of equipment and properties.
The county will form a parks advisory board made up of seven members to help plan long-range capital projects and focus on public/private partnerships.
Also Tuesday, the county council amended the salary ordinance for parks employees. The county superintendent’s salary, which is expected to be current NA-FC Parks Director Roger Jeffers, was approved at $50,325. Other salaries approved include: Maintenance director, $39,250; recreation director, $35,000; office manager, $30,017; maintenance worker, $28,808 and two part-time employees at the sports center will be paid $9.25 an hour. All positions will likely be filled by current employees if they accept offers, Lopp said. The superintendent’s salary will stay the same since the position will have added responsibilities since the position of athletic director will not be hired.
“A smooth transition of the parks has been our number one goal through all this,” said Steve Bush, president of the commissioners. “We want to be ready at the first of the year.”
Several members of the county council did question part of the agreement which agrees to lease five or 10 acres of property for an aquatic center where the current North Annex is located, in front of Sam Peden Community Park.
Questions centered from would the county be responsible to help pay to build the aquatic center, to how much would the county charge the city in a lease agreement, which would likely be a minuscule amount.
The only responsibility the county “would be on the hook for” according to Floyd County Attorney Rick Fox would be to share in the cost of demolishing the North Annex and to cooperate with the city in locating other funding partners.
“That would be our share of the project,” Fox said. “If you look at the agreement the city will provide the financial resources to build an aquatic center.”
Fox said according to the agreement, the city will only be able to use the land to build an aquatic center and will not be allowed to sub-lease the property.
No site plans for a pool, which may also include a public plaza which would be developed by the county, have been released by the city.
“Whatever plan they submit, it still has to be approved by the commissioners,” Fox said. “We wanted to make sure the commissioners put their blessing on it.”
Since the North Annex, which was recently shuttered, will likely have to be torn down no matter what happens with the pool idea, Commissioner Mark Seabrook said sharing the cost of demolition which is estimated to be $400,000 is a plus for the county.
“When the city says it will help pay half to tear it down, it’s hard to turn away from that,” said Seabrook who was involved in the negotiations with the city. “It solves the issue of the Annex.”
There has even been talk that part of the Annex may be saved an incorporated into the aquatic center/plaza development.
“All these issues are preliminary. We will have plenty of time to look at documents,” Bush said.
Commissioner Chuck Freiberger said he hopes the agreement passed is a “win-win” for both the city and county.
“That is our goal,” he said.
Forming a separate parks department became necessary when the city council followed Gahan’s recommendation to split the joint venture last month by a 5-4 vote.