Friday, May 30, 2008

Park Board / Skatepark Association At Impasse: Sk8rs Run Risk Of Losing Say In Operation

I received this news release from Louise Whall, Director of Public Information this morning. I'm not special nor do I have a private pipeline to information coming out of the PIO's office, I just signed up to receive city news releases via email. Anyone can do that. I also get news releases from Bob Nelson.

Who's Bob Nelson? He's the Parks Public Information Administrator, (417) 864-1403. I would have thought he would have been the one to send out this email.

As in previous accounts, there seems to be a pretty subtle bias against the Skatepark people in this release.

Before participating in the mediation process, all parties signed confidentiality agreements regarding the actual mediation. Since the Jan. 8 session, attorneys for both sides have been discussing possible operating agreements, but have reached an impasse.
While this news release technically does not discuss the actual mediation, it implies what was discussed.

I thought the police said last fall that the Skatepark was not even on 'their radar screen'. This blog seemed to think the same thoughts.

I wonder if the Skatepark's no tolerance policy on stealing, assaults, drug possession, noise, general disturbances, inappropriate actions by minors and illegal fireworks is the basis for the seemingly high number of police calls to the facility?

If you violate the no tolerance policy, the cops get called. Period. How can that be a bad thing? I think that's a good thing.

My grandsons go to the Skatepark and I have never seen any trouble there. What I have seen is a lot of kids, mostly teenage boys, who don't dress the same way people dress at Cooper Tennis, or should I say Mediacom Tennis, nor are they wearing those soccer shorts. Skaters wear stocking caps and baggy pants and most of them need to pull their pants up.

It seems that when some people look at these Sk8trs, they see young hoodlums. I see a bunch of kids who are out in the fresh air exercising and having fun.

Part of the appeal of the current Skatepark is that it is NOT run by the Park's bureaucracy; it is run by the kids who use the facility. Which actually makes more sense sometimes: decisions are made by the people who are affected by them. This makes the Park's approach seem a little heavy-handed, almost as if they are more interested in empire building and power. They already have the power of taxation. (Remember that Parks Tax you and I voted for? It never sunsets, it just keeps growing and growing and growing. Read the ballot language.)

The loudspeakers at Kennedy Stadium are more of a bother to our neighborhood than the Skatepark ever was.

May 30, 2008

News Release

For Immediate Release

Following several settlement conferences and a third round of mediation with the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, the Springfield Skatepark Association has elected not to sign a new operating agreement for the Skatepark facility. The Park Board and City regret that no resolution has been reached with the Skatepark Association and that the Board has been left with no choice except to take legal action to regain possession of the facility in order to address park policy, safety and liability concerns.

The City and Park Board served the Springfield Skatepark Association late Thursday with a Demand for Possession for the facility, requesting that they return possession of the facility back to the Park Board by June 30, 2008.

The Park Board and the City have absolutely no intention of closing the Skatepark. The facility is part of the Vision 20/20 plan for the Park System, which was the basis for Parks’ assistance in raising donations and using parks sales tax funds toward its development. The City and Park Board have approximately $500,000 invested in the project to date, including the parking lot, a $10,000 contribution to the indoor facility and revenue from the 2001 voter-approved Parks and Recreation Sales Tax used for construction of the outdoor skating area.

After regaining possession, the Park Board intends to fully fund any and all necessary repairs and upkeep at the Skatepark, and does not anticipate any changes in rates at this time.

Parks and the Skatepark Association began meeting in late 2006 to try to work out a new agreement in anticipation of the contract expiring on Oct. 31, 2007. The Skatepark Association has remained steadfast in its demand to retain ownership of the physical structures that were constructed on public property with donations, taxpayer funds and in-kind contributions. When no new agreement was reached, possession of the land reverted and all permanent structures on it became property of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, as outlined in the original agreement.

In late 2007, the Springfield R-12 Board of Education offered to donate the property on which the majority of the Skatepark facility is located at 945 W. Meadowmere St. to the City. This donation eliminated the need for a lease agreement between the Park Board and the R-12 Board, which streamlined the ownership process.

After receiving the donation offer, a third mediation session was scheduled in January 2008 based on these new circumstances and as an opportunity to possibly resolve this matter with the Skatepark Association. City Council and Park Board members attended the third session, which started on Jan. 8, 2008, to demonstrate their commitment to resolving the matter, to attempt to keep the Association involved in operating the facility, and to avoid unnecessary litigation.

Before participating in the mediation process, all parties signed confidentiality agreements regarding the actual mediation. Since the Jan. 8 session, attorneys for both sides have been discussing possible operating agreements, but have reached an impasse.

The Park Board wishes to clarify that it is not interested in possession of the facility because it is a “profit center” as some have suggested. Annette Weatherman, President and Director of the Skatepark Association, informed Park representatives in early 2007 that there were inadequate funds for upkeep of the facility, such as ramp repairs and replacing insulation. She asked for additional Park’s funds for maintenance and upkeep. The Skatepark operated with a net gain of $16,658 in 2001; showed a loss of $9,371 for 2002; and a loss of $8,176 for 2003, according to the only IRS forms made available to the City. To date, the Springfield Skatepark Association could not or has not provided IRS forms for 2004-2007.

In signing contracts with any of the multiple groups with which the Park Board partners, the City and Park Board research a number of items including: current tax registration status; IRS status; police reports; potential public liabilities; management practices and performance related to City-County park codes and ordinances; citizens’ complaints; and value of service to the public.

Multiple liability concerns remain at the forefront of this matter for the Park Board and the City. Park Rangers and Skatepark users have found the facility operating with inadequate or no adult supervision at various times, including during “all-nighters” where children came and went from the facility without a check-in/check-out process. The Springfield Skatepark Association also has failed to inform the Parks Department of injuries and disputes occurring at the facility.

From Jan. 2, 2004 through May 3, 2008, there were 188 Springfield Police and Springfield-Greene County Park Ranger calls filed at the Skatepark address, including false alarms, stealing, assaults, drug possession, noise, general disturbances, inappropriate actions by minors and illegal fireworks. For comparison purposes, the Park Board operates similar recreation facilities that have indoor/outdoor venues at Lake Country Soccer and Cooper Tennis Complex. During this same time period, there were 20 police calls at Lake Country and 42 calls at Cooper.

The Park Board and City also have concerns about the management of the facility. The Skatepark Association has informed Parks, and the public, that several of its board members are minors. Minors do not have legal capacity to enter into contracts. The Park Board questions whether it is appropriate for the Skatepark to operate with minors running the facility and making safety and operational decisions.

The Park Board agrees with the Skatepark Assocation that operation of the facility is a specialized area and the Park Board is committed to running the facility with staff knowledgeable in the sport. It has a similar commitment for all of the specialized Parks’ facilities, such as tennis, ice sports, soccer, golf and others.

The Park Board and the City have a responsibility to guard the safety of its citizens when using a public facility and a responsibility to protect the voter-approved investment in this facility. They also must limit any potential liabilities for taxpayers created by a failure to take action to mitigate possible safety hazards at the Skatepark. Whenever the Park Board takes over operation of the Skatepark facility, additional oversight and safety measures will be implemented. The Park Board will encourage interested Springfield Skatepark Association members to apply for future openings at the Skatepark and anyone who meets City hiring qualifications will be considered for employment.

During the time the Springfield Skatepark Association continues to operate the facility, the Park Board will continue to use Park Rangers to monitor activities at the facility on weekend nights – continuing the previous arrangement supported by the Skatepark Association – and at other times as warranted.

For more information, contact: Louise Whall, Director of Public Information,864-1010.
Louise Whall
Director of Public Information
City of Springfield, Missouri
(417) 864-1010


Anonymous said...

"Multiple liability concerns remain at the forefront of this matter for the Park Board and the City."

I believe this is the real issue. We're all slaves to insurance.

Unknown said...

The takeover of the skatepark is just another evil and mean-spirited of Ms. Adams and the park board to overcome their miserable failures.

They claim they don't want to run the skatepark, because they can't. Look at the problems with the Mediacom ice park.

The "negotiations" basically resulted in we the Park Board take over the skatepark, or you leave the skatepark and we still take it over. There were no compromises from the City's hired outside attorneys. Their own attorney was either unable to reack a phomy agreement, or they were trying to hide from the sunshine laws.

Long Live Springfield Skatepark
By Skaters and For Skaters!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Big Top! Watch as the amaaazing Park Board continues to mislead the public with one untruth after another!

With much spectacle they hope to sway Public Opinion against the Skatepark, so they can get away with seizing a property they do not and never did own.

Odd. Since it opened in 2001, the City and Park Board have had nothing but praise for the park and the people who built it.

But now that they want the little jewel -- to shine up their increasingly tarnished crown, perhaps? -- then overnight (presto chango!) the park becomes a terrible, horrible, and very scary place. Even with their park rangers there every night. Right.

For sure, Skatepark is one of the most popular and highly utilized parks. Now this must be REALLY scary to the Park Board. And downright FRIGHTFUL to the City!

Today the skatepark runs like a spinning top. But Ms. Park Board, in her perverse wanderlust, wants to slap it down.

Is it jealousy . . . or is it . . . SATAN????

Cold-hearted cruelty is what it is.

Long live Springfield Skatepark.

Are the "ringtones" of freedom getting fainter?

Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

When an enity has the power of taxation and has money, as does the park board, the potential for empire building and turf building becomes the rationale for existance. Everyone and everything that stands in the way of that is at risk.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Cheers.