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City Council considering changes for Park & Rec

The Demopolis City Council is considering making changes in the operation of the Park and Recreation department, including the possibility of abolishing the board that currently presides over that department.

Mayor John Laney presented an ordinance during Thursday’s council meeting to abolish the board, stating that he felt the city, as the funding source for Park and Recreation, should be more directly involved in the decisions for the department. Laney suggested that as mayor he would serve as the Park and Recreation department head along with an appointed advisory board.

“The city is writing all the checks, but we don’t have ability to make any decisions,” Laney said. “We might as well make the decisions with an advisory board to make sure we are taking the department in the right direction.”

When asked, the mayor stated several issues involving Park and Recreation and its board.

“There is an inability of that board to work together to come to decisions. The department does a good job in maintaining the property, but fall short in marketing and sales strategies that could help the department develop its own revenues,” Laney said.

The mayor also said the sports fields are “woefully underutilized.”

“If the city is going to take the financial hits, it might as well dictate how it operates with help from an advisory board,” he said.

Laney made a motion that would have abolished the board, but at least some members of the council wanted more time to consider the decision, which led the item to be tabled until the next council meeting.

Councilman Bill Meador, who sat on the Park and Rec board for 12 years, was among those needing more time.

“They do have problems, but I disagree with abolishing the board,” Meador said. “We have to take time to think about what could, or may, happen if we do away with the board.”

Councilman Harris Nelson agreed.

“This department is one of the largest in our budget and making this type of change is something to take very seriously,” Nelson said.

Other items discussed by the council included:

• Building Superintendent Julius Rembert reported that a structure  on the 300 block of Front Street was recently demolished as part of the city’s ongoing dilapidated housing project. Rembert added that in the near future the project will expand to include other structures, including commercial properties.

• Resident Ruth Williams addressed the council regarding problems associated with a ditch on Decatur Street that is washing out portions of her yard. The project has been on the council agenda for some time, but is now tied up due to needing specialized permitting based on its proximity to the river, according to Councilman Jones. “We are still looking at ways to proceed,” Jones said.

“I need that ditch fixed and the bushes cut,” Williams said to the council.

• Approved a motion that allows for the Demopolis Water Works Board to enter into negotiations regarding a solid waste disposal contract.

• Approved a measure declaring a fire engine as surplus property to be sold. This vote comes upon the delivery of a new fire truck.

(This article originally appeared in the Saturday, June 17, print edition of the Demopolis Times.)