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Park Hill will put tax
hike on ballot

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

How well can a classroom teacher sufficiently monitor the internet access of 25 students? Do technological tools offer a more effective teaching method than a traditional classroom setting? How do teachers assess their students' learning in a student-driven classroom?

These are just some of the questions that concerned parents might be asking school officials in the months ahead, before voters in the Park Hill School District decide whether or not to support a tax levy increase that would allow every student in the district to have a laptop for use at both school and home.

On a split vote, the seven-member Park Hill School Board voted to support the 21st century Future Learner Project, known as FliP, setting in motion a ballot in communication that took place over the holidays.

On Monday in a finance committee meeting, Palmer disclosed that a former city ‘contractor’ has admitted approving the connection of a water line to a metered line at the city's sewer plant.

Mayor Jim Brooks told The Landmark the person admitting knowledge of the connection is a former employee of Alliance, the company that operates the sewer treatment plant. The football field is located next to the city’s sewer plant.

Brooks said he believes the Alliance employee probably received permission from a city department head. Officials have found no evidence that the question ever reached the level of any elected officials.

“She is a good person. I’m going to guess that she just didn’t make it up all by herself,” Brooks said of the former Alliance employee.

The initial intent of the connection, city officials have been told, was so the youth football organization could use the connection for drinking water purposes. Brooks described its intended use, according to what he has been told, was so that the group could fill water coolers and have water to mix powdered sports drinks, etc.

Eventually, somebody at the Vikings realized that a hose could be connected to it and the practice of irrigating the field began.

Brooks speculates the connection happened prior to 2007, though exactly what year is unclear.

Leadership at the youth football club has changed with time. Current club leaders say they have no idea when the water connection was made.

The Vikings apparently used the water line to irrigate the football field for many years without paying the city for their water usage.

“The person involved said she had authorization from the city to do that based on a desire to provide drinking water on site for the Vikings,” said Palmer.

The former city contractor denies granting the Vikings Football Club permission to use the water line to irrigate the football field.

Based upon the light shed on this situation, the city administrator said she speculates the city did indeed authorize the initial connection to provide drinking water for the football club. Now come the questions of when and why the water line, intended to be used solely as a drinking fountain for the football team, was also used to irrigate the field.

Based upon the records obtained from the rural water district that provides water service to the sewer plant, it is unclear exactly how many taxpayer dollars went to irrigating the field, said Palmer. The water district’s records only go back as far as 2008, Palmer said.

“Looking at that window there is no clear pattern. There are really weird fluctuations and it is impossible to tell from looking at those (records) that clearly the (water) consumption went up at this (definite) time,” she said.

According to the city officials, representatives of the Vikings Football Club have agreed to pay an undisclosed sum of money to the city of Parkville.

“The Vikings have agreed to pay some level of restitution in recognition of what has happened here,” the city administrator said.

Palmer acknowledged that the blame should not just fall on the shoulders of the Vikings Football Club.

“I don't think the city is blameless in this. I don't think the Vikings just went out and tried to be sneaky and placed this water line. We now have some indication that the city was involved in that connection. We don't know all the details around it, but from what we could find there wasn't board action related to that. I think it's clear that the Vikings probably ended up using that line for a use that wasn't originally intended and everybody is trying to make it right,” Palmer said in response to a remark by Alderman Nan Johnston, who initially indicated surprise when told the Vikings have agreed to the idea of restitution.

Earlier in the meeting as discussion was centering on possible length of the pending lease agreement,Johnston had remarked: “I have a little bit of a non-trusting factor” with the Vikings.
Brooks described the water hydrant located at the field as a “multi-use pump,” to which a hose could easily be connected.

“I think one thing morphed into another,” he said.

Brooks also declared the city has some blame in the situation.

“We now have someone that says they made the connection. You can definitely tie the city into that decision making process. How far it went up in the city, we haven't been able to determine that yet,” said Brooks.

Meanwhile, Ryan said the youth football club has no problem with putting in its own water meter at the location “so we can pay for our usage.”

Another Vikings representative, Alan Hoambrecker, president of the organization, said he is not opposed to the club paying a fee toward past usage to water the field.

“I’m not opposed to paying restitution. If we owe something then we owe something. I just don’t know what that number is and nobody’s ever said anything,” Hoambrecker said in a phone interview with The Landmark on Monday.

“Nobody has disagreed that we owe them something. It’s still kind of been talk,” he added.