The final moves to transfer county parks back to their communities is under way.
During Thursday's meeting of the Clay County Parks and Recreation Board, action was taken regarding each of the six parks to move them from county control, back to their respective communities.
"Because of the county's tight budget, we had to make a lot of cuts, and we agreed to turn over control of the parks back to the towns or an entity interested in continuing to keep them as parks," Clay County Council member Steve Withers said.
Steve, along with Clay County Commissioner Jack Withers helped initiate the process in February by going to each community to notify them of the plans.
"I went with Jack to spread the word about this and it worked really well as everyone was in favor of the move," Steve said.
However, transferring all six parks (Center Point, Coalmont, Knightsville, Poland, Saline City and Staunton) is not a straightforward process.
For the Center Point Park, a resolution was passed allowing the transfer of the park to the Town of Center Point, which also has to be approved by the Center Point Town Board at its next meeting, but the rest are a little more complicated.
The county currently holds a lease for the Knightsville and Saline City parks, so the board had to approve an agreement to terminate the leases with the Town Board of Trustees of Knightsville and Saline City Picnic Association, respectively, which must also be passed by those entities, before responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep can be transferred.
Leases are also held on the Coalmont and Poland parks, but with no governmental entity available to transfer responsibility to, other means had to be reviewed.
"To transfer the parks over to a community organization, the county can sell them through a bid process and possible auction, as long as they are maintained as a public park," Parks Board Attorney Eric Somheil said.
Somheil added information regarding the sale may be advertised once a week for either two or three consecutive weeks, but the county is opting to place ads for three weeks.
"If we advertise for two weeks, we would have to sell the parks for at least 90 percent of their appraised value, but if we go for three weeks, they can be sold at any price," he said. "A nominal price of $1 would be ideal since they would be taken over by a community organization, and the board may accept the 'highest or best' bid, to allow an optimal opportunity for the areas to remain as parks."
He informed the board with that being the case, the highest bid does not have to be accepted, and preference toward not-for-profit organizations can be taken.
The Coalmont Community Church and Poland Lions Club have expressed interest in taking responsibility for the parks, and the board set 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 8 as the time to open bids. Bid proposals are to submitted to the Clay County Auditor's Office by 3 p.m., the day of the sale to be considered, and should there be more than one bid on either of the parks, an informal auction would take place.
When it comes to the status of the Staunton Park, the necessity for action is not completely in the county's hands.
"Staunton Park is owned by the Clay Community School Corporation and is leased to the Breakfast Optimist Club of Clay County, who subleased the park to the county on May 18, 1992," Somheil said. "The county would have to terminate its sublease agreement, and a separate agreement would have to be made between the optimist club and the Posey Township Trustee, who has expressed interest in the park and would honor the remainder of the lease."
With no termination provisions set in the county's sublease, an agreement was approved allowing the county to end its current agreement with the Optimist Club.
While the county will no longer be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the six parks, Parks Board member Doug Barr said the decisions may be for the best.
"A lot of talk about doing this began last year when the budget started to get tight," Barr told The Brazil Times. "However, most of the parks are more successful when there is involvement from the local communities. Carbon Park is a great example as it has flourished since ownership went back to the Town of Carbon."
All resolutions and agreements go into effect at the end of this year.