Parks and rec decision draws ire of critics
by Clay Neely - firstname.lastname@example.org
In the wake of Grantville City Council's decision to dismantle the city's parks and recreation advisory board, local citizens have been vocal in their opposition.
At the city council meeting Monday, Mayor Jim Sells said he wanted to do away with the current recreation board and create a new, city-paid position to handle the city's recreation needs.
The motion passed, with new council members David Riley and Leonard Gomez voting for the measure and incumbent council members Johnny Cooks and Barham Lundy voting against - and Sells breaking the tie.
On Thursday, parks and recreation director Trellis Zackery expressed her disappointment with the decision Monday to dissolve the advisory board.
'I thought the mayor and the parks and recreation board had a very good and productive meeting a few weeks ago and we were certainly looking forward to a better working relationship with the mayor,' said Zackery of the meeting attended by Sells.
'The parks and recreation three-to-five year comprehensive plan was discussed in terms of what had been accomplished and what was to come. There was an agreement that a recreational building was needed in order to accommodate more programs, and since this wasn't going to happen for a good while, we would work with what we had in the meantime.'
Zackery said she left the meeting with a feeling of goodwill between the mayor and the board.
'The fact that he wanted to eliminate the board came right out of the blue,' Zackery said. 'I feel it was only fair that he should have placed his cards on the table that night so we could have had a dialogue,' said Zackery.
In the wake of the recently appointed chair of the parks and recreation committee, Allen Smith, being forcibly removed by police from Monday's city council meeting, Zackery was disappointed.
'My heart went out to Allen that night,' said Zackery. 'Of course, there's a right way and wrong way to do things for all parties, but he's a hard-working young man in this community. He volunteers a large amount of time with the community and he also works with his church.'
'Following his ejection, I was worried about his future in regards to potential scholarships and military service,' said Zackery. 'Allen's a good kid. I was hoping and praying that things would turn out okay.'
Grantville Councilman Johnny Cooks also voiced his displeasure with the decision made by a council that included two newlyseated members, Gomez and Riley.
'This new council introduced itself with motions to reduce citizens from actively participating in the governing process by removing a very passionate and effective Recreation Advisory Board and questioning the utility development and 'county goodwill' for citizens of Meriwether County,' said Cooks, referring to a project to extend water lines to a nearby Meriwether County neighborhood. 'I only hope that our new members reach out with a new vision and reverse the mayor's misdirection and poor leadership,' Cooks said.
'Jim never agreed with the recreational board,' said Smith, the recently elected chair of the parks and rec committee. 'He thinks we brought children to the [city council] meeting to oppose the splash park. That's not true. We simply didn't want them to take away the summer camp in order to put in the splash park.'
'The Griffin Street fence is a safety measure, to ensure that children don't fall down the hill or run into the street. Yes, it was a $15,000 project but that fence will be there a lot longer than something made of plastic. He doesn't want to do anything for the Griffin Street park, which is exactly why Lundy cited racism,' said Smith. The Griffin Street park is located in a predominantly black Grantville neighborhood.
'Overall, my feelings about the ordeal are a mix of disbelief and anger,' Smith said. 'Sells decided pre-city council to sign the contract to put in the water line down Meriwether Street, but now it looks like we won't get it,' said Smith.
'My dispute during the meeting was in regards to Sells' accusation that the children of Meriwether Street are playing in the street' Smith added. 'The only children that live on the street gather in my yard to play. They're never in the street.'