Grantville rec board decides against dissolution
by W. Winston Skinner
The Grantville Recreation Board almost was dissolved.
A few months ago, dissolving the board was on the agenda for a Grantville City Council meeting and a vote was taken. But it was determined the board could not be eliminated without changes to the city charter.
Mayor Jim Sells, who had suggested the board be dissolved, now sees things differently.
Controversy and disagreement just seem to go along with government in Grantville, and recreation has been no exception. To council meeting attendees, it has sometimes appeared the advocates of the almost completed splash park and those proposing a skate park were in competition.
“Some have felt the city recreation department should be turned over to the county. It’s been a struggle to hold onto the recreation department in the city,” Council Member Barham Lundy said.
Over the years, it has been hard to get various factions in the town “to work together to have a viable recreation program in this city,” Lundy added.
There still are some potentially contentious issues surrounding recreation in the south Coweta town. Sells and members of the recreation board, however, note many of the things happening now – including the hiring of Michelle Huffstickler as the town’s first full-time recreation director – are in line with plans that were proposed several years ago by the rec board.
The recreation board was created in 1998. Retired teacher Mary Elder has been chairman since 2010. Elder, Ruby Hines and Gladys Varner, who was chairman prior to Elder, have been on the board since the beginning and remain very interested in improving recreational opportunities for Grantville residents.
City officials asked the recreation board “to write a three- to five-year plan of what we would like to happen,” Hines said. In October 2012, the recreation board completed its five-year recreation plan. The plan was printed, bound and given to the city council for review.
The plan included recommendations on a wide range of ideas. There were suggestions for recreational spots on the old Grantville Mills property, at the West Georgia Regional Educational Services Agency and on Griffin Street. The basic idea was “things around the city – not just one little place,” Elder said.
Ultimately, the council approved the proposal from the recreation board – incorporating its plans into the city’s comprehensive plan on Jan. 14, 2013. Last week Sells described the rec board’s proposal as “excellent.”
The recreation board “has set out a great guideline to go forward,” Sells said.
The published plan outlined the recreation board’s function and its successes, as well as listing priorities for the five-year plan. The plan called for placing advertisements for an experienced certified recreation director who would be a full-time city employee in 2013.
“We’re using the plan,” Sells said. While it is not being implemented “exactly as it’s laid out” in the printed version, it is the basis for what is happening in Grantville with regard to the recreation program.
“We recommended they get a certified recreation director along with a building,” Elder said. The board also recommended Trellis Zackery, who has been the city’s recreation director on a part-time basis, be hired to assist the new director.
Hines said she wants the record clear about what the recreation board has done over the years, speaking of “the vision that we have had.” She added of the written plan, “Whoever is coming on will have their vision, but this has what has been done so far.”
The night Huffstickler was hired, it was made clear she will be working with the recreation board in putting together a program. “We’re willing to work with her. It’s her call,” Elder said. “We haven’t had a chance to meet her. We have nothing against her.”
“We’ve found someone with years of experience,” Sells said. He talked about the enthusiasm Huffstickler exhibited when she visited the city and looked at facilities and plans. “Her input – with the plan – will be what we do going forward with recreation,” the mayor said.
Lundy said he still feels a facility should have been built before a director was hired. “That discussion we’ve never had in public. We need to have that discussion,” he said. “We’ve put the cart in front of the horse… We’re going about this the wrong way.”
Lundy has been a strong supporter of the recreation board. The city has “never funded the recreation department” as it deserved, he said. “That department has always operated with limited resources.”
With the hiring of Huffstickler, “There will be money going into the recreation budget to have a recreation program,” Lundy said.
He expressed appreciation to the rec board members and volunteers. “They were the ones who kept the recreation program going in the city,” he said.
Hiring Huffstickler is the first step in a process “to take recreation to the next level,” Sells said. “A year from now, we’ll be saying, ‘Wow! That’s awesome.’”
In the past, recreation board members traveled around the region at the city council’s request. Hines recalled discussions with Matt Miller, campus recreation director at the University of West Georgia, and Robert Gamble, who was overseeing a splash park in Whitesburg.
“Whatever they (the council) asked us to do, we did it,” Hines said.
Huffstickler “will work with the recreation advisory board to get up to speed,” Sells said. “The recreation advisory board is an important part of this.”
Elder and Hines expressed a willingness to remain involved and to offer counsel as the city’s recreation program grows. “The only thing we can do” Elder said, “is suggest.”