Park board votes to terminate superintendent

The Culver park superintendent position is vacant after a vote by the park board at its Jan. 8 meeting to end the tenure of longtime superintendent Kelly Young.

The meeting, which was otherwise fairly quiet in contrast to more heated recent exchanges, was near its conclusion when park board president Tammy Shaffer said it had been brought to her attention "and several other people's" that Young had spoken to some town council members about Young's own discomfort with the park board and "the current work environment that we have all been placed in at this time."

She added she had heard discussion of the town council disbanding the park board, and that current controversies have created division in the community.

"I find that hard to work with, from my standpoint," said Shaffer.
She also explained a town council member had spoken to some park employees over the past summer who are "afraid to come forward" and that "there have been racial comments and slurs made in their presence and they're very uncomfortable with that."

Shaffer also said some members of the public had been told a wait list is available for boat slip rental at the town park, when in fact no wait list exists. And, she added, "Overall I'm concerned about safety on the waterfront."

Shaffer then moved that Young be discharged from her position, with fellow board members John Helphrey, Rhonda Reinhold, and Patty Stallings affirming the move by vote.

Shaffer explained Young could continue residing in the beach lodge apartment until the end-of-January date previously decided as the end of her residence there. Park-related papers and keys will be moved to the town hall for storage, Shaffer said.

The citizen input portion of the meeting followed, with audience member Terri Baker, expressing her dismay at the decision, asking if Young had an opportunity to explain her position or talk about what happened.

"This seems so contrary to what seems fair and right in a small town," said Baker, who added she was a member of the park board for 10 years.

She asked the board to defend its decision.

Shaffer replied that a town council member in the room could confirm the matters discussed over the summer.

Someone in the audience asked if Young's file is "clean," to which Reinhold replied, "No."

Further asked if the decision was a surprise to Young, Reinhold said it was not.

Earlier in the meeting, park board attorney Rachel Arndt explained meetings of board sub-committees are not required to be -- and in fact typically are not -- open to the public, though those committees report their discussions and recommendations to the board at public meetings. The question had been asked at a previous meeting if the public was allowed to attend meetings of the recently-established building, finance, and policy committees.

Speaking for the finance committee, board member Helphrey noted conversations in many areas of the community have recently focused on attracting new people to Culver, with attention often given to empty storefronts and drop in public school enrollment. Helphrey acknowledged the importance of those matters, but added the park is "the gem of the town" and can help attract more people as well, "if it is functioning as it should be.

"In general it's underutilized, the building and the park itself," he added.

Helphrey then gave a recap of 2013 finances at the park, explaining the park's total income was $262,754, its expenses $255,795, with a surplus of $6,959. The ending fund balance was $220,542, which includes $33,309 earmarked for some projects last year which didn't take place (so funds reverted back to the park fund). Income was derived primarily from pier slip rentals, at $126,705, as well as $56,680 from property tax draw, $12,000 contributed from Union Township, and remaining funds from parking fees, beach entry fees, and concessions.

The latter, he said, was reported at $36,401, which he said is "not really accurate," as it combines actual concessions with beach entry fees and fails to deduct overhead costs. The committee also recommended the superintendent providing a head count of those entering the beach.

Pier-related expenses were listed as $58,662, which he said were also probably not accurate and needed better line item listings.

The committee also recommended more detail in reporting work by contractors, with Helphrey adding a Point of Sale computerized accounting system would "greatly help."

Salary expenses were 38 percent of the budget, at $97,316, excluding the park superintendent and activities director salaries, he said. There are 14 lifeguards and four maintenance workers employed by the park.

In the case of some employees who were reported by the superintendent as working 40 hours per week, "it seldom happened," Helphrey added, while others worked overtime at time and a half. The committee thus recommended more detail be provided as to why these were the case.

Around $18,000 went to park maintenance, including $5,000 to FH Decks and over $3,000 to Culver Power for equipment maintenance, with around $4,000 paid to the park's maintenance staff. The committee recommended the exploring hiring an outside company for park maintenance.

Also recommended was more detail regarding attendance to events generated by the activities director.

It was further recommended that all buoys and piers be stored indoors at an offsite location.

Introduced at the meeting were audience members Jeff Payne and Tom Yuhas, who Helphrey said had agreed to join the finance committee to "help straighten out the financial operations of the park." The board formally voted Yuhas onto the committee, as they had done at a prior meeting with Payne.

Tom Kearns, reporting for the policy committee, said Ardnt had reviewed the ice rink policy and her recommendations implemented. She will send her recommendations for the park policy manual to the board via email, she said.

The board voted to approve the policy and procedures manual once Arndt's recommendations were incorporated.

It was also reported volunteer Chris Chambers expects to have the ice rink installed, after some incorrect parts had been sent by the company, by the end of the Jan. 10 weekend.

Board member Patty Stallings spoke on behalf of the building committee, which she said has a proposed capital improvement plan and recently toured the beach lodge, finding 38 problems there in need of correction. The committee will next explore cost of improvements and where the funds will come from, she added.

Young, during her superintendent's report, said boater leases are almost ready to go for the coming pier slip rental season.

Following up on an information request at a previous meeting, she reported 147 pier slip renters either reside in, or own property in Union Township, which amounts to 74.8 percent of all renters. Those owning property or living outside the township amount to 24.5 percent, with one slip still available for rental.

The board approved joining the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association, at just over $300 cost, and paying for Reinhold to attend the IPRA's upcoming conference over the Jan. 16 weekend.

Volunteer Jeff Mansfield updated the board on the status of his research into a Point of Sale system for the park, explaining he had spoken to former Culver hardware owner Dave Beggs regarding Beggs' offer to donate the hardware's POS to the park. Mansfield is waiting to hear back from Beggs regarding specific manufacturer, license agreement, and other details of the system, he said.