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Park board votes to vacate superintendent’s apartment, beach lodge

November 21, 2013

Culver's park board gave notice last Thursday evening that its longtime park superintendent -- as well as all activities centered in the building -- will have to vacate the beach lodge as of Dec. 31 of this year, in a vote firmly debated by one board member.

The decision came after board member Patty Stallings requested (and the board approved) that a sub-committee of the board be established to focus on the buildings in the park, to be comprised of two park board members and three citizens, including Culver Academies Director of Facilities Jeff Kutch, who Stallings announced had recently agreed to serve. She compared the sub-committee to two other recently established sub-committees, designated to examine finances and policy, respectively.

Stallings then moved that the board discontinue the use of the upper-level beach lodge apartment occupied by superintendent Kelly Young, as well as any activities in the ground-level meeting room of the lodge, effective Dec. 31 and until further notice. She cited the need for architects to get into the building in order to begin renovations there, which she said could create "a big mess."

Fellow board member Rhonda Reinhold described the apartment as "inefficient" and costing a "fortune" to maintain. John Helphrey, head of the aforementioned finance committee and seated in the audience, said utilities in 2011 for the park were $13,068, in 2012 were $11,614, and are at $10,000 so far this year. He suggested the park board first examine how to make the building more efficient.

Audience member Bill Furry asked if the board wanted to "be in the housing business at all," a decision he suggested should come from the policy committee.

Stallings noted the practice of the park superintendent living in the apartment on the top floor of the beach lodge began in the early 1980s as a security practice to help oversee the facility. Inexpensive electronic security devices, she said, could make the practice an outmoded one, she said.

Board member Kathy Hart asked about activities currently scheduled at the beach lodge, including daily REAL Meals gatherings, though it was suggested those activities could be relocated elsewhere in town.

Hart also asked if use of the apartment is part of Young's salary and if she has a contract specifying it as such. It was noted Young had a contract, including use of the apartment, in her earliest years as superintendent, a post she began 27 years ago, but has not had one since.

"We're changing the way we're going to do business," said board president Tammy Shaffer. "If we're saying we want to change this, then that's what we're doing."

She added that the move "makes sense financially and from a policy standpoint....when Kelly first came, it made sense (that she lived in the apartment). Now I'm not sure it does."

Asked by Shaffer is she expected to live in the apartment "as long as you live," Young said she expected to as long as she was superintendent.

"I can't put one person ahead of the whole community's needs," said Reinhold, who added that managing both Young as an employee and an apartment building is "too difficult." She also noted conflicts in the past year when the board sought to walk through the apartment as part of an overall assessment of the beach lodge and its condition.

"We couldn't get in," she said. "(We were told) it was private. We're trying to maintain a building and we can't get in to see it."

Reinhold and Stallings described the beach lodge as in a state of disrepair, including leaking windows in some areas, and in need of an overhaul.

Audience member Tom Kearns suggested the board should follow "business procedures" in how it made decisions, and that the board has a right to make the move.

Hart suggested the matter be taken to the town council before finalizing the decision. Shaffer, however, countered that the park board shouldn't be simultaneously told to take more responsibility for its own management, but refer unpopular decisions to the town.

"I don't think this is right," said Hart. "It's wrong. You guys have obviously discussed this (ahead of the meeting). I know nothing about this and I want to make sure everything is legal."

Pressed to vote on the matter, Hart was the lone opposing vote to Reinhold, Shaffer, and Stallings' "yays."

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS IN THE PARK

In other discussion, Tony Sellers of Sellers Landscaping distributed information and drawings as requested by the board at its regular meeting the previous week, outlining various options for decorating the town park with Christmas lights.

Lights would be concentrated on fencing, some trees, and selected buildings, he said, and some would be focused on the basketball court area where a temporary skating rink is planned for this season.

He pointed out bulb colors could be changed to decorate areas for holidays such as Halloween and Valentine's Day as well.

While several price points were outlined, the full range of decorations was priced at $10,000, which the board approved, with the town able to keep all the lights used, and just under $700 of that amount deducted by way of an offer by Mike Stallings of Mirar Homes to pay for lights for "Selestine's tree" near the depot.

Sellers said several people had already approached him to underwrite sections of the decorating, which will further reduce its cost.

It was noted the park could be included on a planned map of holiday-decorated homes as part of an outdoor decorating contest being spearheaded by the Culver Youth Community Organization this season.

He also noted this year's ice fishing tournament is scheduled for the Feb. 14, 2014 weekend, an event he hopes can be supplemented with a Culver "winter festival" with various activities for all ages.

Young affirmed the ice skating rink had been ordered and should arrive within a few weeks, and that volunteers have agreed to help set it up.

Stallings noted one volunteer, Chris Chambers, suggested the park might hire supervisors during skating hours, and Stallings suggested park activities director Donna McKee might be able to fill some of that time, with Young supervising at other times.

Reinhold said the park hopes to purchase some ice skates, knowing some children won't have their own, and may solicit donations of skates from the community as well. It was discussed that Chambers' RideOn bicycle shop across the street from the park could also be a source for skate rental or purchase.

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