he park marriage between Platte County and the City of Platte City will end in divorce.
Platte County commissioners on Thursday voted in favor 3-0 of terminating the agreement they previously held with the Platte City Parks Board to operate and maintain Platte Ridge Park, a 215-acre facility along Hwy. 371 north of Platte City.
City administrator Keith Moody was present at the county commission meeting to hear the outcome as commissioners spoke about giving the park board 20 months to rectify the maintenance problems with no avail.
“This has been going on for quite some time,” said Brian Nowotny, county parks director. “The first letter we sent the parks board was back in August 2005 and then the 90 day period we gave them to correct the problem is also overdue. My men were at the park within the last 24 hours and saw extremely limited progress on some items and work hasn’t even started on others.”
Nowotny recommended the county should terminate the agreement before a park board member stood to address the commissioners. Jason Tinder said he took time off work to attend the meeting and wanted to share his thoughts before the vote was taken. He clarified he came of his own accord and was not representing the park board.
“I’ve been a board member since the first of the year because I think it’s important,” said Tender at the podium. “I believe we’re making an honest effort but the weather has not cooperated. I ask you not to terminate the agreement today.”
Presiding Commissioner Betty Knight said the county and park board have a different idea about what issues need to be addressed and when.
“The kids will still be able to play on their teams, the programs will not be compromised,” said Knight. “The addendum the parks board chose not to sign recently has been portrayed in various ways. It was not a heavy-handed attempt on our part to control the city’s actions. I have full confidence in Brian’s (Nowotny) staff and they will take care of the park.”
District 1 Commissioner Tom Pryor said after the vote that the commissioners discussed multiple options last December before the county awarded the park board a 90 day extension to correct the problems.
“It was pretty clear we were committed to taking the park back if serious corrections didn’t happen,” said Pryor. “We awarded them an extension and still no progress was made.”
District 2 Commissioner Jim Plunkett said there were no options available because the park board refused to make the necessary adjustments at the park.
The children’s baseball and softball programs begin toward the end of May and the park needs repair and maintenance.
“The commissioners have worked hard to be patient for the last 20 months,” said Nowotny. “These type of partnerships work well if both sides contribute but progress is not being made satisfactorily. We still have some partnership opportunities available out there in the future. The city deciding not to sign the addendum was the final act that set the stage for today’s decision.”
The city park board unanimously voted to refuse signing the county’s addendum to the original agreement at their meeting two weeks ago. That addendum would have required the city to submit its Platte Ridge Park budget for maintenance and capital improvements to the county for county approval.
The addendum would have given them more time to fix what the county refers to as material defaults at the county-owned, city-operated Platte Ridge Park. The park board had planned to continue maintaining the park until they heard otherwise from the county. At a park board meeting a few weeks ago, Moody mentioned the topic of possible legal action against the county if the county declared the park board was in default.
These potential legal discussions skidded to a halt at Monday evening’s joint special meeting between the Platte City Board of Aldermen and the park board. Moody said the partially closed meeting included direction from the board of aldermen to set up a meeting between county counselor Bob Shaw and the city’s attorney, Keith Hicklin.
“They will be able to set up a meeting and try to work out agreeable terms of the separation,” said Moody. “We want to make sure the park’s programming goes ahead for this season and those to come. Any potential for legal action was not the direction I heard from the parks board or aldermen.”
Moody said the “parks board wants closure as soon as possible. They don’t want their projects to remain in limbo any longer.”
Another Platte Ridge Park meeting was also held this week between Nowotny and Dannie Stamper, the city’s parks director. They met to discuss the possibility of the parks board continuing the completion of two projects in particular, the dugouts and vandalized stadium lighting.
“The (stadium) lights were vandalized and copper wire was stolen (from them),” said Nowotny. “But there is still wire sticking out of the poles unsecured and it’s not safe. I asked him (Stamper) whether the parks board planned on finishing these two projects they already started, and he said ‘Maybe.’”
Nowotny reiterated that children are still able to sign up for their sports team and nothing has changed when it comes to future games being held at the park. He said the county’s first concern is that the children have somewhere to play this season.
“The (city) parks board continually says they ‘are doing this work for the kids. That’s what it’s all about,’” said Nowotny. “If they really meant that then they would get out there and finish the projects they have already started. There are a lot of areas out there that the city either could not or would not start up. I have yet to hear anything from the city or get a response about their future plans. I will hopefully get a good response.”