Aldermen get short with one another
he end of the latest Parkville Board of Aldermen meeting erupted into a heated exchange as members debated future plans for a local park, effects on adjoining wildlife wetlands and a grant application that would partially fund the plan.
Two members who represent citizens living in the area of Platte Landing Park questioned the wisdom of the proposed changes, outlined in a recent $1 million Platte County grant application. If awarded, the city would provide $3 million to the project, which will be drawn from a 2019 voter-approved half-cent parks sales tax.
Alderman Tina Welch told members at the April 6 board meeting, where there was no action taken on the measure, that her constituents are concerned about the implications of the project as proposed. She further explained that a baseball complex should be located elsewhere not only because of the damage of the adjoining wetlands, one of the few such habitats in the Kansas City area, but also because the area is located within a Missouri River flood plain.
“We’re going to destroy the beauty of our parks and for what reason?” she asked.
Alderman Marc Sportsman said, “Tina, why don’t you go and find that land, OK? We’ll put you in charge of that committee.”
Welch responded: “Fine. But in the meantime, we don’t need to destroy our parks.”
Philip Wassmer, whose ward also includes the park, said he considered the plan, which calls for baseball and softball fields and overlapping lines for other sports as well, as over-development and said “every amenity we need for the next 20 years” does not need to be placed within the city’s two parks (English Landing being the other city park).
Wassmer referred to a city survey in which citizens listed their top parks wish-list items. Welch reminded the board that the wetlands, which were only developed last year, “did not even exist” when city officials created the current master plan, a long-range document detailing future goals. Aldermen have referred to the master plan in detailing plans for the park.
Welch added that plans for a veterans’ memorial also were never listed on any city planning document until recently.
“The plan morphed over the years and no one knew about it,” Welch said. “Who made these decisions and how did this baseball field get so huge?”
Alderman Marc Sportsman said, “That’s another falsehood, Tina–another falsehood.” Mayor Nan Johnston said she and City Administrator Joe Parente had met to discuss placing information about the park plan on the city’s website so citizens will receive accurate information. Alderman Greg Plumb said while the website plan is a good one, “it’s about two weeks too late.”
He added the city should hire a public information officer to help disseminate information to the public before false information has a chance to spread.
“I’m going to harp on it at every single meeting (until an employee is added),” he said to which Johnston and Alderman Dave Rittman agreed.
Sportsman added that there are efforts to “sabotage” the city’s grant application and plans for the park. At the board meeting two weeks ago, members voted to remove a section of the application that called for adding lights to equip the fields for nighttime play. Conservationists have warned residents and board members that lights would disrupt the patterns of migratory birds who pass through the area, potentially leading many to die.
During the April 6 meeting, Sportsman said citizens get false ideas about projects when some residents state false information as fact on social media.
“All of a sudden in everyone’s minds it becomes fact when it’s not correct and not accurate,” he said.
Welch told the board some residents wanted to have the opportunity to speak to which Sportsman said, “Oh, God.” But Johnston said that would not be fair to those who weren’t at the meeting because it was not advertised as a public hearing. She said the matter must be resolved.
“We’re scaring people to death with what they think is going to go down there,” she said of the proposed changes.
Adlerman Bob Lock seemed to agree with Sportsman when he sarcastically said, “Let’s make sure we don’t have anywhere for kids to play. And let’s move the veterans out of town, too.”