County park board at a crossroads

Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A county board that was created to help establish Minooka Park wants to play a more integral role now that the park is open.

The Chilton County Park Board, which has both Minooka and Higgins Ferry Park under its umbrella, is at a stage where it either needs to evolve into a more functional entity or simply be dissolved, according to some.

“We’ve got to be put into a position of respect and courtesy so we can function as a board,” Carl Headley, the board’s chairman, told the Chilton County Commission Monday night.

The nine-seat board currently has six active members, as three have resigned for various reasons including health reasons.

It has gone about three months without meeting but plans to resume monthly meetings in January.

More than one board member has expressed frustration over the current system for governing Chilton County’s parks.

“We kind of feel like we don’t have any input of the day-to-day running of the park. We are like a paper tiger,” member David Brewer said. “We are not wanting total control of the park. We would just like our voice to be heard.”

Headley asked the commission to consider requiring park administrators to present requests to the board, which could in turn do research and make informed recommendations to the commission.

“We want to make sure money is being spent wisely,” Headley said, proposing the idea of soliciting corporate donations. “We could get enough to offset expenses and develop [Minooka] park to the point where it wouldn’t be an expense to the commission.”

Commissioners were hesitant to make a decision Monday night, however. Commissioner Allen Caton, who serves as a liaison between the Park Board and commission, advised coming up with a full set of regulations before voting on any one item.

County Attorney John Hollis Jackson has drafted a set of bylaws, but these have not been formally presented.

“I would like to see a full set of guidelines with input from the rangers,” Caton said.

Caton also had concerns with taking leverage away from park officials as well as the commission itself.

“We are elected officials,” he said. “We are accountable to the people that elected us. The Park Board members are appointed officials.”

It was decided commissioners Heedy Hayes and Red Turnipseed would work with Caton and the Park Board to come up with a structure that would be agreeable to all. The idea of reducing the number of seats on the board from nine to seven was entertained as well.