By BRADEN LAMMERS
JEFFERSONVILLE — The cost of winter entertainment is worth it for the city of Jeffersonville, officials say.
Parks Department Director Paul Northam at a recent city parks authority meeting presented a financial report related to the Jeffersonville Ice Rink that was open from Nov. 23 through the last weekend in January. According to the report, expenses for the ice rink totaled $125,935 and revenue was $50,088, resulting in a loss of $75,847. The city posted a loss of $77,692 for operating the link last year.
Northam explained that while expenses were cut by about $20,000, revenues also dropped by about the same amount.
“A big part of that reason was we had three days that we had to close last year,” he said. “We closed 11 days this year and most of those 11 days were Saturdays and Sundays, which are our big days.”
The monetary losses are something the city is willing to accept.
“City services should not be in the business of making a profit,” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore.
He added that he thinks the ice rink is a great idea if managed properly and while there is no measurable impact, the ice rink is definitely an economic tool for the city and its businesses.
Moore’s comment about management of the rink related to a payment made to Walnut Ridge Nursery and Garden Center of $10,000.
“I’m not comfortable with a council member’s business being paid for work that affects a city project,” he said.
However, Councilman Dennis Julius, an owner of Walnut Ridge, said his business gave the city a cost break on landscaping at the ice rink. The company was hired by the city’s parks department for the work.
“Doing what we do costs us a lot more than $10,000,” he said. “If I was going to do that for another community it would be more than $10,000. It’s quite involved. We don’t just plop a tree down.”
Julius explained that a large portion of the costs involved were the labor in transporting trees — which can weigh up to a ton — to the rink and planting them in temporary planting beds. That cost also included stringing up decorative lights on the trees and above the skating rink.
Julius provided the cost outline for Walnut Ridge’s expenses to the News and Tribune.
According to the report, the total cost to complete the landscaping was more than $14,900, with $6,500 of the cost for labor. The difference in the amount billed and the total cost to Walnut Ridge was donated to the city.
The value of the plants used was nearly $13,400, according to the report.
“What we want it to look like in the evening is for it to look like you’re walking through [a] park,” he said of the atmosphere created.
As far as the purpose of the rink and the loss incurred by the city, Julius said he would continue to support the project as long as the community supports it.
“I think it’s a successful project,” he said. “That’s a true quality-of-life issue. It brings a lot of people to the downtown which we wanted it to do from the beginning.”
Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street Inc., said businesses downtown did get a boost from the ice skating rink.
“It may not be immediately quantifiable, but it does create an impact to downtown businesses,” he said. “It’s more than just an economic impact — it’s really a cultural asset for Jeffersonville.”
And for the businesses, even if the draw of the rink does not translate into a direct sale, Ellis said they are still being exposed to a new market and a new customer that may otherwise not have come to the area.
“You [could] drive by [the rink] and see 100 people who may not normally be in downtown Jeffersonville,” he said. “I think overall the response that I get is most of the businesses are very happy having this down here. I think it’s something other communities admire.”
Jeffersonville City Council President and Parks Authority Board Member Connie Sellers agreed that the city did not think it would make money by having the ice rink downtown. But before the plans to set up the rink move forward this winter, she said the city may have to look at ways to further reduce costs.
“I think that we knew it would not be a [profit] generator,” she said. “The idea was to get people into downtown Jeffersonville. I know it was busy when it was cold enough. I personally like it being there.”
Sellers suggested looking at shortening the length of time the rink is operational, if that would possibly save the city some money.
A city program that will definitely be seeing some cost-cutting measures take place is Anchors A-Weigh.
It offers a variety of free exercise programs held at the city’s RiverStage. The plan for this year’s events is to host programs on four weeknights and one on Saturday morning, which will change from a Zumba class to a yoga class due to noise complaints received last year.
Northam said to put on the programs in 2012, it cost Jeffersonville about $29,000. But during last week’s Parks Authority meeting, he offered several ways to reduce the cost for this year’s Anchors A-Weigh program to about $8,000.
Northam suggested the TV broadcast of the programs that aired on Saturday mornings be eliminated, that much of the advertising for the programs be cut and instead tie the advertisement into RiverStage marketing, the parks department’s online “shout-outs” and that it be promoted on the parks department’s revamped website that has been planned.
“I think it was about $9,000 to $10,000 worth of advertisement we spent,” Northam said. “I think we could cut a lot of that out.”
It was also offered that the length of the season be cut from 21 weeks to 17 weeks, with the programs to end in mid-September.
The parks authority questioned what to pay the instructors that are teaching the classes, which are offered for free. Northam said the instructors received more than $100 per session last year and that fitness instructors, on average, will make closer to $30 to 50 per session.
The parks authority agreed with many of the proposed cost-cutting measures and also wanted Northam to look into the possibility of having the attendees pay a minimal fee to participate in the Anchors A-Weigh program.
No official action was taken at the Feb. 25 meeting and a refined plan is expected to be presented at the parks authority’s next meeting.
Bids were reviewed to install landscaping along the front of Nachand Fieldhouse on Court Ave.
Three bids were collected by Northam from Frank Otte Landscape and Design, Walnut Ridge Nursery and Garden Center and Clinton Korfhage Landscaping.
Despite not being the lowest bid, the parks authority — which is comprised of city council members — approved Walnut Ridge’s bid at $5,100.
“We have a relationship with Walnut Ridge, we use them quite often [and] they’re a local company,” Northam said.
The bid from Frank Otte totaled $7,340 and Clinton Korfhage’s bid totaled $4,694.
Before the work takes place, Parks Authority Board Member Mike Smith said he would like Northam to look into adding an irrigation system before the landscaping is planted.
Walnut Ridge’s bid was approved 5-0, with Board Members Bryan Glover, Matt Owen and Ed Zastawny absent from the meeting and Julius, who is an owner of Walnut Ridge, abstaining from the vote.
Plans for a soccer and multisport complex off of Charlestown Pike are expected to be presented for bids at the parks authority’s March 11 meeting.
However, Matt Gullo, architect for Kovert-Hawkins, said discussions have taken place about expanding the size of the building that will accompany the soccer and football fields planned for the complex.
The proposed expansion would nearly double the size of the indoor, multisport complex. The original square footage of the indoor complex was 20,400 square feet. If the expansion takes place, it would increase the square footage to 34,800, Gullo said. As a result, the expansion would take away about 40 parking spaces.