By John L. Ross
Residents of Barbourville can expect change when it comes to managing the city’s four public park facilities.
During a special-called meeting of the Barbourville City Council Thursday, council members discussed, and subsequently made, changes to the management system.
Mayor David Thompson opened the meeting, explaining the city attorney advised he should “go over the four parks.”
The parks in question are Thompson Park, the Barbourville Water Park, the ball park on Hinkle Street, and another ball field.
Currently, JoEllen Black and Jeff Black receive a “small monthly fee” to help with the RV park at Thompson Park, according to Thompson. That includes coordination and maintenance responsibilities.
Title IX city school grant monies cover maintenance expenses for the Hinkle Street park, Thompson said. Cleanup and maintenance, including the concession stand, ball field, restrooms and batting cages are usually handled by the high school softball team, according to Thompson.
The mayor then said the Water Park “has had different people running it” over the years. He said it was first managed by the city, and then management changed several different times. The mayor said he even ran it.
Then five years ago, Wendy Thompson was put in place to oversee the facility. However, Mayor Thompson said Wendy Thompson will no longer be able to work the position full-time after April 1, as she will be licensed to manage her own day care establishment.
The fourth city park, Thompson said, is largely used as a baseball field.
“When it was built, (concessions) were run by the Little League (teams),” he said.
Mike Trent currently is in position for those duties, however, he, too, will be stepping down to care for ailing family members, the mayor explained.
After some discussion concerning decreased interest in softball leagues and some declining revenues in the ball fields, Council member Darren West offered an apology to Mayor Thompson.
He explained that an article he had seen “made (him) sound accusatory.”
“I’m not saying money got taken or whatever the case,” West added. “(We’re just) seeing how the city can make more money.”
“That’s fine — that’s fine,” the mayor said.
Council member Ronnie Moore also offered up an apology.
“I did not intend to insinuate (anything) unethical (was occurring),” Moore said. “That is not the way I intended it.”
He added that he wanted council to seek “ways to generate more revenue.”
Moore felt the operation of the concession stands and the park should be bid out, adding that his opinion had nothing to do with the current manager being the mayor’s wife.
“It’s not Wendy (Thompson),” he said. “(It should) not be subbed out.”
He felt the city should be hiring employees to run these facilities, and then all revenues generated would “go back to the city.”
He reiterated his point — to generate more revenue while providing the services. “I am all for providing a clean (park) for my kid to play in,” Moore said.
“It’s not all about money — but if you can’t give the police a raise, for example…”
Moore also expressed his concern about the Parks and Recreation Board, which Thompson said was created by city council members.
“The city council doesn’t know what’s going on,” Moore said.
Moore made the motion that operation of the concession stands at the city park and the water park not be bid out to subcontractors. He continued with his motion, saying that instead, the city should hire an employee to operate the concessions — then all profits at the concession stands will be profit for the city.
Council member Gary Williams asked if Moore meant one or two different people for each concession area.
Moore said that part did not matter, saying council could get “one to run them all, or 10 to run them all.”
Council member Gerald Hyde seconded that motion. Council members were unanimous in their decision.
Then Moore immediately made another motion — to hire a water park manager as a city employee, and one of that person’s responsibilities would be to oversee the management of the concession stands.
Williams questioned whether the duties of the concession manager and the water park manager would overlap, but Moore clarified the water park manager would be “over” the concession stand employee(s). Williams then seconded that motion. Again, council members were unanimous in their decision.
Then Moore made a “public request.” He said that while it was the “mayor’s right to hire” employees for the city, he wanted city council members to be included in the final decision of who to hire. He then recommended Bob Dureko to oversee the water park duties, adding he had the experience to do the work.
He then requested city clerk Helen Strong to record his recommendation.
The mayor said the city would have to take applications, as well as advertise for the position by law.
Moore then said he was “asking publicly” to be in the loop when it came to the employee screening process.
Thompson explained those recommendations could be reached during the personnel committee meeting, then presented to the full council. He added that job descriptions and salary decisions could also be determined during the personnel committee meeting.
“I still am asking (for these decisions) to be brought before city council,” Moore said, adding he wanted the full council’s “blessing” on who gets hired for the position.
Moore then mentioned a phone conversation he apparently had with Mayor Thompson, where he learned an ice machine owned by Thompson was being used in one of the concession stands.
He also alluded to other property owned by the mayor and his wife, stored on city property and utilized in the concession stands.
Thompson said he would take that property out of the concession stands.
Moore said he thought it would be better if the city owned its own concessions.
“That’s the way we need to do it,” he said.
Once the discussion ended, the hour-long meeting adjourned.