Winamac’s new park board is officially up and running. During its first meeting Thursday, John Chapman, Courtney Poor, Chris Schramm, and Brad Zellers were sworn in as the board’s first members.
After that, the board began the process of formally taking over the town’s park facilities, which include the Winamac Town Park, Rinehart Park, Veteran’s Memorial Park, and the Winamac Parkway. Clerk-Treasurer Melanie Berger presented board members with a copies of the Park Department’s finances, noting that it currently has a very tight budget. After having spoken with park officials in Monticello, Zellers says that having a park board should open up new opportunities for grants, “The one, it sounded like, that Monticello has gotten a few times, they basically applied and got it – very simple, very easy. It’s not twice a year, it’s when you turn it in, they go over and ‘Yep, okay.'”
However, before the town can start applying for most of these grants, a five-year comprehensive plan for Winamac’s parks and recreation facilities must be completed. Berger suggested that the town hire college students, who would create the plan as part of their coursework, in an effort to save the town some money.
Town Attorney Justin Schramm adds that there are also some financial arrangements that must be made before the park board can start bringing in money. “One thing that we’re going to have to do, especially if you’re going to apply for grant funding or if you’re going to charge a fee for special activities – you can’t charge a fee for general admission but for special activities, you have the power to set fees – is we’re going to have to set up a non-reverting fund, probably an operations fund, so that money can be deposited in that fund,” he says. “There’s certain notice requirements that have to be given. If we can do that, if you’re going to receive any money, we’re going to have to set up either an operating fund, a special non- reverting capital fund, or a cumulative building fund.”
In addition to the potential grant opportunities, board member John Chapman suggested some more creative ways of helping with expenses, such as the establishment of a nonprofit organization. He noted the success of Friends of Tippecanoe River State Park, and said the same concept could work even better for the Town Park, “This park has the hold of most people’s hearts. That place doesn’t. If we ever thought about that down the road, that could alleviate a lot of your financial [issues]. It could probably alleviate some of the day-to-day, who maintains the flower beds and that stuff. There’s people out there that would love to do that if you just had a group that did that, and they conform with what the vision is of the park board and the park manager.”
Additionally, the park board decided to keep Dave DeLorenzo in his position as park manager, although rules at the state level appear to require the position to be changed to a park superintendent. As for the organization of the park board itself, Courtney Poor was chosen to serve as board president, while Zellers was selected as vice-president.
The park board plans to meet monthly for the time-being, with meetings to be held the first Thursday of each month at 6:00 p.m. in the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office in the Winamac Town Hall. The board also plans to meet on a quarterly basis with members of the town council.