News and Tribune

December 5, 2012

New Albany approves parks property transfer

Restaurant or coffee shop may flank aquatic center

By DANIEL SUDDEATH
daniel.suddeath@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — The New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety made a few amendments to a parks property and equipment distribution resolution Wednesday before unanimously approving the measure. 

At the request of Floyd County, the resolution was amended to specify the city will lease a portion of the front acreage of Sam Peden Community Park off Grant Line Road potentially for an outdoor aquatic center. 

The tentative agreement reached last week between Mayor Jeff Gahan and the county had stated the city may receive the property through deed, lease or transfer. 

Shane Gibson, an attorney in the city’s legal department, said a long-term lease for the property versus the county deeding the acreage to New Albany isn’t a significant change from the administration’s point of view. 

“At the end of the day, it’s what works best for both counties,” he said. 

When the lease agreement is finalized, it will likely include a reversion clause that will state the property must be used for an aquatic center, Gibson continued. 

Board member Warren Nash asked Gibson if the county intended to allow a restaurant to be built on some of the property surrounding the proposed pool area. 

Gibson acknowledged that the county has plans to develop around the aquatic center if it is built, but instead of a restaurant, he referred to the potential project as a public plaza concept. 

Floyd County Planner Don Lopp said Wednesday the plaza is a conceptual idea at this point, and will likely hinge on whether the city constructs a pool at the site. 

A small footprint such as a coffee shop or eatery that fits into a park setting is what the county has in mind for the plaza, Lopp continued. 

“Folks could use the aquatic center, walk down to the public plaza and have the ability to get a light meal and be able to maybe walk out and enjoy the rest of the park,” Lopp said. 

Part of the agreement states the city and county will split the demolition costs to raze any buildings on the land if needed in order to construct an aquatic center. 

Nash inquired if that meant the North Annex building is in danger of being torn down, to which Gibson replied “without a doubt” the structure may be demolished. 

Lopp said “it’s very preliminary” in terms of moving forward with any demolition, as the city still has to finalize funding, design and construction for an aquatic center. 

The Floyd County Commissioners and Floyd County Council are slated to hold a joint meeting Tuesday in which they could vote to accept the property and equipment transfer agreement. 

Distribution of five facilities and parks was the main issue to resolve in terms of physical assets after the New Albany City Council approved Gahan’s plan to form a separate municipal parks department in November.  

Of the major facilities, the county will operate the Southern Indiana Sports Center and the city retains Cannon Acres. The Sports Center was the home to the New Albany-Floyd County Parks Department administrative offices, and Gibson said the municipal recreation headquarters have not yet been determined. 

Kathy Wilkerson accepted the interim director position for the city parks department beginning Jan.1. NA-FC Parks Superintendent Roger Jeffers said he had no intentions of working for the city due to his disagreement with how the split — which was mainly over the county’s funding shortfall of the parks department — was handled. 

City Council President Diane McCartin-Benedetti said this week she spoke with Wilkerson —  a 40-year veteran of the parks department — and that she confirmed she agreed to serve as interim director for 60 days. 

Benedetti said she has confidence in Wilkerson. 

“I think the transition will take place very smoothly,” Benedetti said. 

The city council doesn’t have to vote on the property transfers, according to Gibson, as the board of works is the city’s custodian body for public land and assets. 

The board recessed its meeting Tuesday so that it could vote on the resolution Wednesday. The board also recently approved a design contract for a new Little League facility, which city officials said this week isn’t tied to any particular piece of property.