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Changes in job description leave park position future in debate

December 24, 2013

Tempers flared once again at last week's meeting of the Culver parks and recreation board, whose members reaffirmed that park superintendent Kelly Young would soon be vacating her apartment in the park's beach lodge (though they did amend the timing of the move), and adopted a new job description for the superintendent position which left at least one audience member asking if Young still has a job (she does, said board president Tammy Shaffer).

The Dec. 11 board meeting began with introduction of the attorney hired to represent and advise the board, Rachel Arndt of Peterson, Waggoner, and Perkins LLP in Rochester. Arndt noted many in the area are familiar with her father, Dr. Mark Couts of the Family Vision Clinic in Culver.

Also introduced was new board member John Helphrey, who had been appointed the night before by Culver's town council, to complete the board term of Leroy Bean, who resigned from the park board earlier this year.

Board president Shaffer noted Helphrey had already been serving on the board's finance committee and was a longtime regular attendee at board meetings.

Also seated at the board table -- though not a board member -- was Kathy Clark, who had agreed to take minutes at the meeting in the wake of the recent resignation of board secretary Kathy Hart.

RELOCATION OF REAL MEALS

Shaffer began the business portion of the meeting by explaining she had communicated with a representative of REAL Services in South Bend regarding the future home of the program, which meets weekdays at the park's beach lodge. At its previous meeting, the park board voted to vacate not only Young's apartment, but all programs currently held in the building by Dec. 31.

Audience member Jeanette Geiselman asked if the board planned to address the Golden Agers group, the senior citizens' organization to whom REAL Meals serves lunch at the lodge. Geiselman said the equipment, including tables and chairs, used during the program actually belongs to the Golden Agers, and asked about a handicapped accessible location for the group to meet after Jan. 1.

"I want to take responsibility for the lack of communication," said Shaffer to Geiselman. “I'm about six months behind in my life. It's definitely my fault a letter didn't get out ...I know you heard secondhand or through the newspaper (about the need to vacate the building by Dec. 31), and I apologize. We can work on your time schedule; you tell me what you would like."

It was discussed that heating elements in the stoves at the Culver Lions Club's depot kitchen, which otherwise might be an ideal interim location for REAL Meals, are likely inadequate to meet proper food handling standards. It was also noted the Golden Agers have been meeting in Culver since 1970, though only for about the past 15 years in the beach lodge.

Board member Patty Stallings also affirmed the hope that the group can meet in the beach lodge again when planned renovations are complete. Shaffer added the board had yet to determine what activities could be held in the beach lodge after Dec. 31, but that REAL Meals could stay on in the space in the interim.

"We did a very poor P.R. job of explaining what we really want to do," said Stallings. "We don't want to remove people until we have to, but we had to have a date we wanted to start (renovating the beach lodge)...we apologize for worrying you."

SUPERINTENDENT'S APARTMENT

During the superintendent's report portion of the meeting, Young asked the board for an extension to March 1 in vacating the lodge apartment, citing the difficulty of finding a place to live and the upcoming holiday season, as well as the early status of the renovation project.

Board member Rhonda Reinhold suggested a Jan. 31 date instead, expressing concern that work on the building wouldn't be done by summer if Young remains in the apartment until March 1. She added that the March 1 date was still possible, but she didn't want to be "locked in" to it; Helphrey agreed.

Several audience members expressed disagreement, especially when the board voted to formally approve the Jan. 21 date, including audience member Lora Pinder, who said to the board, "Shame, shame...I don't know how you sleep at night!"

As more expressions of disagreement continued from the audience, Shaffer cut in that she'd "heard enough from the peanut gallery" and cautioned restraint until the audience input portion of the meeting.
Young went on to ask where she and park program director Donna McKee would work during renovations, noting they share a computer at the beach lodge.

Shaffer said the board would take the matter under advisement, though she affirmed McKee could continue her work in the meeting room and maintain park programs at the lodge through Jan. 31.

SUPERINTENDENT'S JOB DESCRIPTION REVAMPED

Moving on, Shaffer said the board worked with Arndt to "tweak" and shore up the superintendent's job description, and would be doing the same with others in the park.

Reinhold said the board thus became aware it had not been operating according to state statute, which requires the superintendent to have a degree in parks and recreation management, something incorporated into the new description.

Arndt said most changes were grammatical, though one change put the onus on the board, rather than the superintendent, to prepare original drafts for ordinances; Young will instead take on more of an advisory role.

The board voted to adopt the new job description into effect Jan. 1, 2014.

"With that being voted on," said Shaffer, "at this current time the park superintendent now employed (does) not hold proper certifications. She will definitely be invited to reapply for the position."

Audience member Jean Rakich asked if Young was, as a result of the decision, "out of a job," though Shaffer responded this was not the case.

"Kelly has had a review process," continued Shaffer. "She's let us know where she's at as far as her education. That's all I can say (because) it was discussed during an executive session."

In response to Rakich's query whether Young would have "first choice" in the superintendent's position, Shaffer responded that "Nobody gets first choice; anybody who is qualified is welcome to apply."

Rakich went on to say the matter is "causing such an upheaval in Culver. We're such a small town; we should show a lot of brotherly love. This is not being handled well."

Reinhold emphasized the board was not making its decisions "out of some sort of malice," though Rakich said her concerns over the matter represented those of many in the audience who hadn't spoken up.

It was also noted that vacating the beach lodge apartment is a permanent decision, and that future superintendents would not reside in the apartment.

Some in the audience noted Young's residence there began as a security measure at the park.

Helphrey disagreed.

"The superintendent lived there for 27 years, rent free, as a possible deterrent to vandalism and theft. In those years, you had graffiti and costly vandalism and theft...(nowadays) the superintendent doesn't answer the phone or come to the door, even though her car is parked at the beach lodge. So have the citizens and renters received any benefit?"

AUDIENCE MEMBER RESPONSE

Audience member Terri Baker countered its "ridiculous" to say Young's presence doesn't act as a crime deterrent at the park.

"This woman is there 100 hours a week," she added.
Reinhold said there are thousands of park superintendents not provided residence as part of their employment, and that doing so in fact is a rare thing.

"We're moving forward," said Reinhold. "That building needs revamped and we have to look at the community as a whole, and not just one person."

Audience member Ed Pinder asserted the park is in the strong financial shape it is due to Young.

"That's to be determined," said Shaffer.

Stallings acknowledged Young has been "dragged out in the middle of the night" to handle park problems many times, but suggested inexpensive security cameras installed on the park's buildings and monitored by the police department could replace the need for the superintendent's presence 24 hours per day.

Town marshal Wayne Bean suggested Young should be offered the opportunity to meet certification requirements while on the job, as other town employees have done, something Stallings said is "a very good possibility." Reinhold said some park superintendents have had their experience "grandfathered in" towards the necessary degree.

Reinhold also noted most public parks don't offer high salaries to degreed superintendents. Audience member Susie Mahler said she has friends in Illinois making less money as park superintendents, but running programs at their parks 12 months per year.

Audience member Betty Reinholt, explaining she's a member of a church which met for some years in the beach lodge, said she would like to have a piano the church donated to the Golden Agers returned, in light of the board's decision.

She also encouraged the board to consider grandfathering Young into her current position. She also expressed sorrow at the dissention on the board, adding it "used to be very functional before people started moving in."

"If you haven't been here the full seven years I have (on the board)," replied Shaffer, "You may not get the full picture."

Audience member Sue McInturff offered a different perspective.

"I've been coming a number of years to (park board) meetings and I think they're as productive as they've ever been. I don't think there had been any real change for the good in years. I personally support what you're doing."

She added she has a problem with Young holding two full-time jobs (the second as an elementary school teacher in Culver), and that the superintendent position should be her only one.

Audience member Tim Yuhas praised the board for "stepping it up," creating committees, reaching a quorum of board members regularly, and "moving in a very positive direction."

Shaffer said she missed work the previous afternoon and again that morning, and has exhausted her vacation time.

"We have made mistakes, but we're doing our homework and have learned a lot. We have a great community to start out with...I think everybody in this room cares about what goes on in this community."

HOLIDAY LIGHTS IN THE PARK

In other discussion, Tony Sellers addressed the board concerning holiday lighting his company, Sellers Services Inc., installed recently in the park, which board members said has received a great deal of positive response.

It was noted lights are yet to be added to the park's light house and forthcoming skating rink.

The board voted to allow Sellers to receive donations offered by several area entities and individuals towards offsetting the cost of the lights, which the park board purchased for use in future years. The total cost of the project to date is around $9,500, said Sellers.

BOARD MEETINGS WILL INCREASE EACH MONTH

Citing "quite a bit of work ahead of us," the park board voted to meet the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, rather than the single meeting currently held the first Wednesday of the month.

POINT OF SALE AND COMMITTEE REPORTS

The board heard from Jeff Mansfield, who had volunteered to research the best computerized Point of Sale system for the park to adopt to handle its summer sales. Helphrey noted that Dave Beggs, former owner of Culver's hardware store, has offered to donate that store's POS system for use in the park, which Mansfield said he would look into.

The board was updated from members of each of its recently-formed sub-committees, including the policy, building, and finance committees. The board voted to appoint community member Jeff Paine to its finance committee, and citizens Russ Mason and Jeff Kutch to the building committee.

It was discussed that committee meetings could be held in public places such as the town hall or beach lodge, and announced ahead for those in the community wishing to attend.

Stallings, of the building committee, discussed searching for architects who can factor historic preservation of the park's buildings into their approach and said the committee hopes to have a recommendation by January for an architect.

SKATING RINK

Young said the park's new skating rink has arrived, and thanked utilities manager Bob Porter and the street department for unloading it. She said she has ordered safety pads for the basketball poles in the courts where the rink will be installed, which should take place in the next few weeks. Culver's fire department has agreed to help fill the rink with water.

Lengthy discussion took place as to the degree of monitoring to take place at the rink, with some in the audience questioning if having the rink monitored by volunteers or those not specially trained in safety and first aid could actually open the park up for further liability than leaving it unmonitored.

Young noted the park's insurance provided did not require monitoring of the rink, and McInturff pointed out Fort Wayne has a skating pond with a light indicating whether skating is allowed that day, but otherwise leaves the pond unmonitored.

Young said signage already on order designates that children 10 or under will need to be accompanied by an adult to skate.

PROGRAM DIRECTOR'S REPORT

In the absence of park program director Donna McKee, Shaffer made her report, detailing attendance to various programs.

A holiday tidings party for children Dec. 20 will include ornament making, a Santa toy shop, and gingerbread house snack box, Shaffer said.

Reinhold said she noticed youngsters from the Culver Boys & Girls Club seem to be the primary attendees at many children's events, and added she has yet to see planning for older children. CBGC children, added Reinhold, are "already in a program. I have yet to see any original planning here."

Also approved was a fee schedule for attorney Arndt's work, which will be a flat payment of $1,500 per quarter.

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