Parks Board gets a surprise visit and update
During its regular Nov. 20, 2019 meeting, the Forney City Parks Board had a rare visit by City Manager Tony Carson, who informed them of personnel and policy changes.
- City Manager update on recreation programs and facilities: Mr. Carson began by stating Kyle Rouvaldt, the city's Public Information Officer, is now the interim Parks & Recreation Director, and said Kyle has been working with staff the last week.
He said, for benefit of the associations, beginning Jan. 1 the city will not schedule any fields the city does not own. The city will be working on the agreements for each of the associations, ready in 3-4 weeks, there will be fees, should be similar to what would pay outside the city, will be fair and equitable, will not be burdensome.
Mr. McNear and Mr. Daniels inquired about the personnel change; Mr. Carson stated he does not discuss personnel matters.
Mr. Traylor w/ Soccer Assoc. said this change was expected, at their last meeting they approved payment to the city. They need to know what fees are, registrations start on Dec. 23. Last year had 1,800 enrollees. They propose a flat fee per season, they have an amount they feel would be fair. They would like to use the soccer complex for practice; they are willing to pay their fair share. He requested Mr. Carson inform them of the fee amount.
Ms. Alexander with kickball spoke, needs to know information before can schedule next season, and asked if would still be sharing the field; yes. She asks them to included kickball in plans for new park. She said other leagues would come here for tournaments.
Ms. Mason w/ baseball assoc. said signups start next month, and without knowing what the new fees are, don't know what to charge the kids, obviously will have to go up.
Ms. Whitsell with Mesa Softball, for 12+ years; they try to not go up on fees, charge only cost. They buy bases and supplies, last year's use agreement put things back on them the city used to do, if they have to pay fees, that should be considered.
Mr. Blevins with FYFL said they have always paid a good amount to the schools for game-day fields, they practice at Mulberry, he asked if there would be a fee for that. Mr. Carson said they will be providing the agreements, goal is to have them before end of year.
There was some discussion about fields not being used in Jan. and Feb.
- Department Reports: Mr. Rouvaldt asked if they should have a Dec. meeting; there was to be a presentation tonight about Pinson Farms, but didn't get on the agenda. Mr. Anich asked if agreements would be ready by Dec. meeting; Mr. Carson said they are trying to get done ASAP. Ms. Lawrence asked if rental fees would be by game or by season, and if they are charging for use, what is the point of the use agreement. Mr. Carson said the point was if an association wants to take a field away from public use, which is what happens when the association uses the field, there needs to be an agreement for that. Ms. Lawrence said that takes away support for recreation sport, as anyone could rent a field, so how is the department giving back to recreation sports.
Mr. Dettmer said before the community park was built, they voted to support local leagues and associations, so now they would be asking citizens who are paying for the bonds to pay extra. Years ago, they decided to not charge associations. Mr. Carson said the city does not provide recreation, they provide fields. The city has nothing to do with (association) signups, fees, by-laws. Some cities have a recreation dept., Forney does not. They provide the facilities. They know not all participants are Forney residents. Mr. Dettmer said they just approved additional fees for those living outside the city and FISD limits, but charging a fee to leagues they are charging some city residents extra. He said this is the first he's heard of this, the agreement years ago was to not charge associations, as they are providing the recreation. Mr. Carson said there is no such written agreement. Mr. McNear mentioned the recent city action to remove Park Board approval from the process, events are now under Mr. Carson's dept., he wondered what role the board would have. Mr. Carson said as it was setup: an advisory board, to the city, nothing has changed. Mr. McNear said (responsibilities) had been removed, he wanted to be sure they weren't just going to show up once a month to say Hi. Mr. Luna asked why they weren't notified about council changes; Mr. Carson said it was posted on the agenda. Mr. Daniels suggested it should have been communicated to the board. Mr. Carson said this was directed by council, not staff. Mr. Daniels asked where the fees would be going, if the plans for the new park would continue; Mr. Carson said that's up to council. Mr. Daniels asked if council made the decision to change fee schedule; Mr. Carson said he works at the direction of council.
Ms. Lawrence asked what other cities they have researched - she works for a city that is in recreation business, and they don't charge associations for practice fields. Mr. Carson said they aren't done, just started the process. An assoc. rep. said if council already made the decision, and then they are told about, when it's too late. They need to have a say before council makes a decision on their (association's) behalf. Mr. Carson said it's on the city's behalf, which needs to determine costs of the field. Mr. Dettmer asked why they have a budget if can't provide fields. Mr. Traylor said some kids can't afford to play, they service inside & outside city limits, it's still Forney. He buys gear out of his own pocket. He could email 2800 parents if need to have people at council meeting. Ms. Alexander requested city make public announcements that going to increase prices, so parents will know.
Mr. Anich asked if the agreements will be subject to Park Board review, or entirely by council; Mr. Carson said they don't have the mechanism yet, he wished he could give them more information.
Mr. Jones said the biggest concern is transparency, and the kids. Mr. Daniels said shifting focus to making money over providing service to the children, there's a problem. With poor communication, it's a problem. An association Rep. said started the conversation months ago, and they asked then to be told of changes in time to get signups going, now they are told they will maybe get it in 3-4 weeks. Mr. Carson said it wasn't maybe, will have something by end of Dec. Ms. Rep said they can't have a board meeting to finalize budgets without numbers, pushes their season. Mr. Luna asked if could push this until next season; Mr. Carson said intent was to get agreements out by end of Dec. She asked about the signup system, as they haven't heard anything else. There was no answer. Another Rep. said if fees are too high, they will be done. He said they (city) should have come in with the number.
Mr. Anich said he understands their frustration.
- During board communications: Mr. Dettmer thanked the associations for their work, he didn't know about this until they heard it. He was surprised, he appreciates Mr. Carson coming. Ms. Lawrence also thanked the association people, who are providing recreation to the community, despite what city manager believes, they are in recreation. She's extremely disappointed with how this proceeded, she hopes for more transparency. Mr. Luna said he was excited when came on board, but tonight is concerning. Mr. Anich thanked the people for there dedication, he asked for information from finance department, thanked Mr. Carson. Mr. McNear said he wished he could say was surprised, it's about the kids, not money and politics. Mr. Daniels agrees, was caught off guard, hope gets more information next time. Mr. Jones said was blind-sided, hope they take their advice, never seen people invited to a meeting and told to "hold-on" to find out why - he was a council-member at another city, he was in law enforcement and if you don't find something for youth to do, the kids will.
- Adjourned at 1942
Wednesday, 2019, November 20