The Town of Winamac is looking for potential members for its new park board. The Winamac Town Council formally established the park and recreation board during a special session Thursday.
That will open the door to some funding opportunities that aren’t yet available to the town, according to council member Judy Heater. “We kind of have to weigh the pluses and the minuses and think about the fact that our tax base is never going to get any bigger, so we’re going to have to get innovative on ways to find money for different projects,” she said. “And park board opens up a whole lot of areas for grants and other doors, and sometimes to move ahead you’ve got to take a little leap of faith.”
Some council members, though, expressed concern about giving up some of their collective power to a new board. Council Vice-President Tom Murray worried that the park board might open the door to cronyism and put current town employees’ jobs in jeopardy.
To alleviate those concerns, the council decided not to give the Pulaski County Public Library Board or the Eastern Pulaski School Board representation on the new board. Instead, all four park board members will be appointed by the town council. Town Attorney Justin Schramm expects the appointment process to take a couple months.
The new board also has some implications for the town’s swimming pool rebuilding project. It gives the town a formal entity to oversee the pool’s budget. However, council member Dan Vanaman felt that the pool belongs under the town council’s control, and voted against the establishment of the park board.
Town Manager Brad Zellers, though, believes having a park board will benefit the pool project. “There’s so much to gain by putting the pool under the park [board],” he said. “If you put those right people in that you feel are going to take care of the way you feel it ought to be, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
The Town of Winamac has agreed to contribute $150,000 to the pool project, but with a park board now in place to oversee it, Clerk-Treasurer Melanie Berger questioned the need to place that money in the fund set aside for the project at the Community Foundation of Pulaski County. Berger noted that the money is earning interest in the Economic Development Income Tax Fund, where it currently is. Council President Kenneth McFarland also pointed out that keeping the money where it is would ensure the town keeps control of it, should the project fall through. Winamac officials will meet with representatives from the Community Foundation before finalizing plans for the town’s donation to the pool project.