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May 10, 2012

Floyd County Council joins criticism of parks veto

Parks department secures $100,000 in additional funding

NEW ALBANY — The Floyd County Council agreed to honor its vote last month of giving the parks department $100,000 in additional funding Wednesday night. The funding was needed to maintain programs and prevent layoffs this year.

However, council members didn’t hesitate in criticizing New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan for his recent veto of a new interlocal agreement between the city and county to fund the parks department. Gahan vetoed the agreement last week and the city council failed to override it Monday night.

“A lot of work from officials went into this and the mayor didn’t come to any of the meetings to discuss his concerns,” said County Councilman Brad Striegel. “The county put its best foot forward on this agreement.”

Striegel said he is optimistic both sides will continue to meet and come up with an agreement this year.

“We will support the parks,” he went on to say.

Since 2004, according to the Gahan administration, the city has paid about $4 million more toward the New Albany-Floyd County Parks Department than the county. Gahan said Monday he doesn’t want the city to enter into a new agreement with the county until restitution is made for the past funding discrepancies.  

Some county council members said they were not aware of the funding issues until they were brought to their attention last year. They also said they cannot find an ordinance on the books from 2001 which spells out how the parks department is suppose to be funded by the city and county. They said it is talked about in meeting minutes, but there is no signed ordinance in the county’s possession. And they agree if funds are owed, they are owed to the parks department, not the city.

County Councilman John Schellenberger said it’s frustrating when the county council and county commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new agreement, as did the city council on the first two readings, only to have four council members vote against it on a third reading and the mayor veto it after it was passed by three elected boards.

“A lot of people put a lot of work into this, and at the last minute it gets vetoed?” Schellenberger said.

County Council President Ted Heavrin said he was “upset” the mayor vetoed the new agreement.

County Councilwoman Dana Fendley said the county supports the parks department, and will continue to support it.

“Moving forward we will approve whatever budget we think is appropriate. We will not abandon the parks,” she said.

The new agreement was signed and put into the county records even though it was vetoed by the mayor.

County Commissioner Steve Bush said the city and county have proven that interlocal agreements do work. He said there would be no Floyd County YMCA or a merged IT department in the City-County Building without city and county cooperation.

“We need to move forward,” Bush said. “I told the parks to call a meeting, get the city and county together and let’s hash this out.”

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