Panel: County park district in good shape

Seneca County Park District’s finances are in good shape, and the board’s finance committee is looking into investment options to keep them that way.

During his finance report Tuesday, board member Jim Nordholt said the second allocation of levy money has been received, which brings the total for the year to $577,310.

“So we’ve experienced more tax revenue than we had budgeted,” he said. “I estimate having close to $100,000 more in revenue this year than we had estimated.”

Voters approved a 10-year, 0.5-mill levy last fall, the park district’s first levy in its 20-year history.

Nordholt said much of the needed equipment has been purchased, and employee-related salaries, health care and other expenses are being estimated for the rest of this year and for 2018.

“I think we’re right on task where we wanted to be,” he said.

In preparation for its second levy year, the board approved a resolution accepting amounts and rates as determined by the budget commission for 2018, and authorizing the county auditor to collect about $595,000.

Nordholt said the Budget and Finance Committee has met twice. He is chairman and board member Roland Zimmerman and director Sarah Betts also are on the panel.

He said the committee’s first task is to review the 2017 budget, make a recommendation for a 2018 budget, and determine how much could be invested.

“Keep in mind the need to make those funds spread properly over 10 years,” Nordholt said. “We don’t have to spend each year’s allotment in that year. In 10 years, we’ll need more to get through a year than we do now.”

For example, he said salaries and health care costs likely are to increase,

Board member Bill McAllister said the board must think ahead.

“I think it’s critical we make that known,” he said. “Wages, fringe benefits, the cost of everything is likely to be more.”

In her experience with Hancock Park District, Betts said that board typically banks at least a year’s worth of expenses.

Another committee report updated the board on the Community Park Grants Committee.

Chairman Zimmerman said members are Joni Faeth, Bernie Hohman and Nathan Frisch. The committee’s next meeting is at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 in the RTA building conference room.

Strategic Planning Committee Chairman McAllister said his committee of Lenny Clouse, Lee Martin, Cathy Nagle-Irvin and David Zak is looking to add one more person.

He said the committee talked about the differences between strategic planning and master planning.

“One of the goals may be to develop a master plan under the strategic-planning umbrella,” he said.

He said the committee is considering recommending that a planning consultant be hired, but more details are to follow.

After working with Betts, the committee also plans to recommend a full-time nature preserves manager be hired, as well as a part-time business manager, but details are not yet complete.

McAllister said employees would be selected by Betts, who then would make a recommendation they be hired by the board.

When it meets, the Governance, Policy and Human Resources Committee is to continue creating district policies. Committee members are Chairman Roy Zinn, board member Nordholt, Lori Hall and Ann Martin.

As an example of a policy, Zimmerman said someone had been making money using the lake at Garlo Heritage Nature Preserve, which has been suspended.

“Someone was charging for canoe trips on Garlo park lake, and the committee will be completing a policy on use of facilities soon,” he said.

A tabled item from the August meeting was revisited.

After clarification with Seneca Regional Planning Commission, Betts said she plans to recommend the board approve a memorandum of understanding under which the park district would take the lead role in a project related to mapping historic properties and historic locations as well as creating walking, biking and driving trails to those locations.

The project is to be funded with a $7,900 grant from the Ohio History Connection Community Historic Preservation Fund. The funds are part of money allocated to Seneca County through a settlement with Rover Pipeline after a historic building was destroyed.

After clarification, Betts said she learned much of the research already has been done and landmarks and cornerstones already are in a database.

The park district’s role would be to form a committee working with Regional Planning’s Active Transportation Committee and others to oversee an ongoing project involving creation of walking paths and bike routes featuring the county’s historical sites.

“There is no completion date,” Betts said. She foresees annual updates on the project to Regional Planning.

During her report, Betts said she attended the Sandusky River Watershed Coalition Round Table and Tour Aug. 8 to learn about agencies involved and issues in the watershed. She w Rotary meeting Aug. 15, and she attended the Aug. 24 Seneca Conservation District/Farm Bureau annual meeting.

She said work continues on proposed office space and details are being worked out related to renovations and office equipment.

Board member Carl Miller said volunteer Charlie Gaitros is working on projects at Steyer Nature Preserve including revamping the kiosk to better withstand flooding and putting up signs.

He said the canoe launch at Steyer preserve remains a safety issue, and Betts said she’s working with Christina Kuchle of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Watercraft Scenic Rivers Program to alleviate the problem.

The board is to meet at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 27 in the RTA conference room, a change from its regular Tuesday date.