Park district OKs 1st budget

Seneca County Park District’s board approved a lease for office space, a 2018 budget and a community grant application process at its meeting Thursday.

The budget, a requirement for the county auditor’s office, shows expected income of $709,447, mainly $595,447 from the levy approved by voters last fall, expected grants of $66,718, farm rent of $24,600 and donations of $5,000.

Expected expenses total $698,450, which includes $190,000 for capital improvements, $175,000 for salaries, $96,000 for grants to community parks, $50,000 for equipment, $50,000 for contract services, plus smaller amounts in categories such as supplies and other employee-related costs.

“The bottom line is fairly close to the revenue,” said Finance Committee Chairman Jim Nordholt.

“We’re looking at some significant capital improvements next year,” he said. “For the first couple of years, it’ll take money to do projects that have been waiting for several years, to bring things up to where we want them to be.”

Discussion revolved around the importance of the board knowing the amount of carryover funds from year to year.

Nordholt said the budget approved Thursday is mainly for the county auditor, and the committee plans to create a more detailed budget for the board. He said $300,000 would be “a reasonable guess” for current carryover from 2017.

Also Thursday, the board approved a motion to proceed with a plan from the Community Park Grants Committee outlining the application and granting process. Details on an information meeting for applicants and other aspects of the plan are expected to be announced within the week. The board asked Executive Director Sarah Betts to send a letter outlining the plan to local communities and townships.

“The committee believes this is a living thing that will be updated and improved in the future,” said Roland Zimmerman, chairman of the committee.

Zimmerman said two rounds of funding are planned in 2018, totaling $90,000, because plans were not yet in place this year, and an annual grant program in the future, allocating $45,000 each year.

Regarding office space, the board approved a lease with the Seneca County Board of Commissioners for space at 3362 S. TR 151, which is in the building with Seneca County Jobs & Family Services and the Seneca County engineer.

Betts said the lease is granted for four years of free rent in exchange for renovation of the space, and possibly a fifth year of reduced rent, depending on the final renovation cost. After that, rent is to be $10,000 per year.

Commissioners are expected to vote on the lease at their meeting Tuesday.

After approving the lease, the board approved a $32,800 bid for renovation work from Zeis Development Limited, 675 N. Sandusky St., with Nordholt abstaining because of a conflict of interest.

Betts said remodeling is to begin immediately.

Program Director Linda Rose said she is adding teen programs to the monthly schedule because some youths who regularly attend programs aimed at ages 6-12 are turning 13.

In addition, she said the park district is to offer a winter camp during Christmas break.

“We’ve toyed with that idea for a couple years,” Rose said. “We’re going to pray for snow.”

Board member Bill McAllister asked Rose for a list of overall programs and new ones added since she was hired as full-time program director.

During public comment, visitor Jeremy Twigg expressed interest in the wildlife manager position and offered the services of his Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops for volunteer work in the parks.

Betts said the board has received two applications for the volunteer board member position opening at the end of the year.

Although Seneca County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Jay Meyer had requested the board narrow the field of candidates to two people through an interview process, board members decided to send both candidates to him for a final decision.

Betts said three applications have been received for the nature preserve manager job and four applications for the business manager job with 1 1/2 weeks until the application deadline.

In her report, Betts said the park district and the Franciscan Earth Literacy Center are to partner on certified volunteer naturalist training in Seneca County. She said details are to be completed in early 2018 and classes are to begin next fall.

Betts said the park district received a $35,000 donation from Robert Teach. He stipulated $10,000 is to go toward projects at Bowen Nature Preserve and the remainder is to be used on special projects in the district. Betts said projects completed using the funds are to be noted with signage.

She said last weekend’s storms damaged buildings and trees at Bowen preserve as well as in the town of West Lodi.