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McAllister elected chair of park district board

Senior board member Bill McAllister was elected chairman of Seneca County Park District’s board during its reorganizational meeting Tuesday. Lori Hall was elected first vice chairwoman and Lee Martin second vice chairman.

The district’s director, Sarah Betts, office manager Shelly Smola as board secretary and treasurer Seneca County Auditor Julie Adkins were re-confirmed.

Appointments to standing committee were delayed until the February meeting.

The board discussed changing its by-laws to drop the Community Park Grant Committee because Betts said the committee’s purpose had been to get the program organized, and the grant program now is operating.

“The standing committee was designated because part of the levy promise was that there be a grant program back to the communities,” she said.

She said the grant system is a good way for the park district to support parks in areas where there are no county parks, and to support community parks. The system is in place where grants are offered in a two-year cycle, which provides time for projects to be completed before a new cycle begins.

For this year’s application cycle, she said park staff has met with community representatives interested in applying, and applications are due May 1.

After applications are received, Betts said they are reviewed by a panel of park officials from outside Seneca County who are familiar with grant projects. Panel members decide which projects are funded, decide how the money should be allotted and offer suggestions.

Betts said she has served in that capacity for other counties.

The recommendation then is considered by the entire board, and there’s no longer a need for the board committee.

Until they decide whether or not to retain the grants committee, the board agreed to make appointments to the other three standing committees – Finance/Audit Committee, Governance/HR/Policy Committee and Strategic Planning Committee.

Also during the reorganization, past board chairman Carl Miller started the meeting and then turned it over to McAllister.

Miller, who is retiring from the park board but not from other pursuits, challenged the board to continue to improve the park district and its legacy.

He predicted good things in the future.

“The next six years will be better than the last 10 or 15,” Miller said. “It’s in good hands. I feel that.”

Miller said the biggest challenge he and other board members had after voters passed the park levy in 2016 was to learn to let go because they had been used to doing everything that needed to be done.

“But we wouldn’t be here where we are today, we wouldn’t even have a park district if it wasn’t for the levy,” he said.

He commended Betts for turning the board around to new procedures.

McAllister said it “took a lot of backbone” to be in Betts’ position.

“Anyone with less of a backbone wouldn’t have survived,” he said.

“We were trying to chew her up and spit her out, but she wouldn’t have it,” Miller said.

Miller said he leaves the park district in the capable hands of Betts and the current board.

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