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LaFayette council discusses Park and Rec department, future projects

During their campaigns, LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines and several LaFayette council members pledged to develop the city’s parks and recreation department.

Now, city leaders are working to ensure they come through on those promises.

Before any work can be done, the city has to finalize its 2020-2021 budget, as the city’s 2021 fiscal year ends at the end of September.

“This is addressed to myself and the rest of the council, as you can see and as you can hear, we have a lot of things that we need to get done. Our finance committee, we need to get together and look at what we need to do, even to the point where we are looking at our fees,” Vines said. “The new part of our cemetery is almost completed, and I’m just going to say it tonight before we put anyone over there, we’re going to have to look at our fees. We really need to have this meeting about a parks and recreation director. We have a lot of things that we have to get done. We have these things that are up and coming that are unexpected. I received an email today about our Cares Act money coming, but right now, we don’t know when we’re going to receive that. We really have to sit down and look at our finances and what we need to do.”

For the past few months, Vines and councilmember Michael Ellis have put an emphasis on hiring a parks and recreation director, but the city needs to find the money first.

“Two things I ran on were parks and recreation director and making sure our water is clean, and right now, I’m getting hammered,” Vines said. “We have got to look at what we need to do. I hate to be the one talking about raising taxes and fees, but it looks like it is going to fall on me. There are just too many things that are on the table that need to be done.”

At its final meeting in April, the council approved the finance committee to develop a salary to hire a part-time director.

At Monday’s meeting, Parks and Recreation Board Member Charlene Story brought up a couple of ways to change the Parks and Recreation Department.

One of the changes Story brought before the council was changing who handled the department’s money.

“During these past years, some of the board members have received scrutiny from onlookers and parents because they feel like board members are taking the money,” Story said. “We would like to make a recommendation that the board members or anyone dealing with Parks and Rec, as far as parents or volunteers, we have no handling of the money. We would like everything to go through the city.”

Story said the only money the board members should deal with is money collected from concession stands, which would be brought to the city.

Councilmember Toney B. Thomas, who was the chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board the previous four-year term, wanted to assure the parents and onlookers that no money had been mishandled during his term.

“I can assure everyone that the money was handled appropriately, was turned in and had proper documentation from the bank,” Thomas said.

Ellis said that this request from the parks and recreation board shows the need for a director.

“I’m sick and tired of saying that we need to hire someone to be over parks and recreation. They will handle all that stuff,” Ellis said. “We haven’t approved a budget, so let’s make it happen. I think we can find the money and make it happen.”

At the previous meeting, the council approved a motion to hire a part-time parks and recreation director.

While he didn’t have a problem with the city handling the parks and recreation department’s money, city clerk Louis Davidson brought up that any bank account for parks and recreation would be audited.

“It needs to be a clear understanding that there would be certain rules and regulations that would need to be abided by when it comes to that,” Davidson said. “When it comes to concession stands, you can’t come in on a Monday and hand me $150. You’re going to have to have itemized things.”

The Parks and Recreation Board also wanted to see if the city could change its website to include a parks and recreation tab.

“On the website, there’s a [tab] that says ‘our city park,’ but there is no information tied to Parks and Rec. Parents can’t go to the website to see what upcoming activity we have going on, they can’t see anything dealing with the Parks and Rec. The only thing they can see is the new city park, and we would like to see that changed to where any activity we have going on, they can go to the LaFayette website and look at the information pertaining to Parks and Rec,” Story said. “I know that it is going to take a while to get that up and running, but those are recommendations that we would like to see, probably not this season we are about to start but next year.”