Discussion about establishing a parks and recreation district within the county is gaining momentum, with county residents and leaders meeting Tuesday evening to discuss how to move forward with the project.
A crowd of about 60 people assembled at 6 p.m. in the Fayette County Extension Office and commissioner Tony Anderson opened the floor for the first of the residents to show support or raise concern about the potential parks and recreation district.
Deb Buccilla, superintendent to the Board of Developmental Disabilities, was the first to speak in support, and said that overall this is a healthy, low cost option for the disabled residents of Fayette County. She said that the parks and recreation assets will not just be for those disabled residents though, as the entire community can benefit from healthy recreational opportunities. She suggested the district could add more parks, bike trails and other options.
On behalf of the board of health, Leigh Cannon, Fayette County Health District Deputy Health Commissioner, said the county health ratings were 76th out of 88 counties and most of that comes from health outcomes.
“The chronic diseases are also very prevalent as well here,” Cannon said. “Having this kind of district in the county would really help to promote healthy lifestyles, reduce obesity and diabetes, keep weight control. I am not sure if they are going to be tobacco-free parks, but there is a lot of data out about those types of parks reducing overall tobacco usage rates in the county. We are really hoping that we can improve these numbers and think the district is a good way to accomplish this.”
Every five years, it is a strong suggestion from the state that counties review their land use plan document. The Fayette County “Comprehensive Land Use Plan” is a vision of what Fayette County wants to be in the future according to the citizens of Fayette County. Thus, the people of Fayette County have worked together to develop a land use plan which addresses the issues of future land use in the county.
This process was recently started here in the last seven to nine weeks, according to commissioner Tony Anderson, and previously the last land use plan was completed in 2006.
Dan Drake, Fayette County Assistant Prosecutor, has had discussions with the commissioners and has taken time to research how the parks and recreation district will work going forward, and presented his findings to the attendees of the meeting.
He said the parks and recreation board would be its own governmental entity and can use the funding available to it by law.
“Most of the time, this will be organizing, looking for grants and collecting donations or other money. The board does have the power to levy some tax money and they can use existing assets at its disposal to help them become considered for grants,” said Drake. “These positions, should the commissioners choose to enact it themselves by going directly to the Probate Juvenile Court Judge David Bender with a resolution, or if the community comes forward with a petition to him, will be held accountable by the people they serve.”
He said any complaints with the board would need to be brought up to Judge Bender, “who would, I imagine, investigate into the complaints himself and decide appropriate action.”
Drake also said that a map would be required to be submitted with either a resolution or petition to Judge Bender that would show where the district will be created and what townships and other areas it will cover.
Washington C.H. City Manager Joe Denen voiced the city’s support for the parks and recreation district and said the city has a resolution on the agenda in support of establishing a park district in Fayette County.
The resolution has already been through one reading and according to Denen, each member of city council voted “yes” after the first read.
Denen said from the city perspective, they are always excited to expand the level of cooperation with the county and other villages within. One thing he noted was that the YMCA started out from a resident-driven initiative with assistance from the city. He said that it is hard to argue that the YMCA has not been a public benefit.
Overall, the crowd was highly in favor of creating a parks and recreation district. The commissioners decided to hold further discussion until their Sept. 19 meeting.
Anderson had a request during the discussion. He said that if creating the district is a serious want from the community at large, residents should come together to bring a petition to them at their next meeting to show the support.
Anderson suggested his request would help to show that a larger group of people do want to establish the district.
If the commissioners decide to bring a resolution to the judge, then Bender would have 20 to 40 days to hold a hearing for more public input before he makes his decision.
The Fayette County Commissioners Office is located at 133 S. Main St. and can be reached at (740) 335-0720. If anyone wants to share support or concerns on Sept. 19, contact the office to let them know.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy