This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Winter pictures and park news

March has come in like a lion. Will it go out like a lamb?

The river has fallen and left rings of ice along the banks and around the trees that were in the water.
 The ice along the north bank has mostly crumbled because it gets heated by the sun, but the ice on the south bank is shaded so it does not change much from day to day.
 Rensselaer does not have an official skating rink but kids will make do with whatever they can find, even if they do not have skates.
The City has been removing snow from city property and the downtown and trucking it out to its lot on Bunkum Road. I hear the trucks because the brakes squeak when they stop at a stop sign near my house. I finally found one of the trucks being loaded next to the gas department.
 We had another four inches of snow over the weekend and the new snow formed some interesting patterns on sewer grates.
 By the way, the sewer grate in a recent post was next to the Field House/Recreation Center at SJC.
 On Monday the Park Board met at its monthly meeting. The main item on the agenda was further discussion of Staddon Field. The School Corporation bought the field in 1955 but the city park department has used it for many years, putting in the ball field and the rest rooms as well as parking on the west side of Frances Street. For many years the City has leased the field from the School Corporation for a nominal fee while the school used the city property that sat beneath the Monnett School. When the Monnett School was closed, that property reverted back to the City, and the City asked the School Corporation to tear down the building, which it did. At that point the issue of Staddon Field emerged and I am not sure exactly how that unfolded.

From the discussion that took place, it was clear that the Park Board is unhappy with its situation, caught in the middle of things that it cannot control. The Blacker Trust has money that is supposed to be used for the parks, but the Park Board has no control over how that money is spent. The School Board seems unwilling to continue the lease at a nominal fee and the Park Board does not want to lease because it has a development plan that depends on long-run control of the Staddon Field property. The City offered $40,000 for Staddon Field, which the School Board rejected. Apparently they were thinking of a price more in the $300,000 range. That asking price may have been influenced by the purchase by the Trust, acting without a recommendation from the Park Board and on the assumption that the proper use of the entire property would be to have three ball fields, of a house and property adjacent to Staddon Field for $80,000. I had a hard time hearing some of the conversation because the heating system in the park building is very loud, but I think I heard that the School Corporation had two appraisals done on the property and they came back at about $50,000 and $90,000.

At some point, and I do not know if this offer is still on the table, the School Corporation offered to lease the property to the city for $20,000 for twenty years plus a final year at $10,000, at which time the City would own the property. Two members of the City Council plus the Mayor were at the meeting and my reading was that they and the Park Board had no interest in a lease of this sort. It was clear that the School Board and the Superintendent have lost some of the good will that other branches of government have had for them. One member at the table recounted how the park system has always gone out of its way to help the school, providing the football field for many years and more recently the soccer field and softball field at no cost when the High School introduced those sports and did not have a its own fields for use.

It is not clear whether the parks will be able to use Staddon Field this summer. The Park Superintendent has a plan A, which is a ball schedule with Staddon Field, and a plan B, which is a ball schedule without Staddon Field. A motion was passed to have him decide which plan to use based on what kind of agreement, if any, can be reached with the School Corporation. We can expect to hear more about this matter in the next few months.

The Park Corporation purchased a new Kawasaki mule with a plow for snow removal and other tasks. That expenditure was discussed at the last meeting and apparently approved with a phone vote.
The meeting finished with more mundane matters. The Park intern passed out a copy of a sample questionnaire about a dog park to learn more about public sentiment. If there are no issues raised by the people who send out utility bills, you may be getting a copy of it in the next few months with your utility bill. (I did not see the sample questionnaire so I am not sure what information it is seeking.) Then there was more discussion about the possibility of organizing a flag football league. The only thing standing in the way of starting it is an examination of the finances--how much will it cost (the primary cost is for referees) and how much would a team have to pay to be included. A three page set of rules was handed out.

There was discussion of having the next Park Board meeting at the old Monnett School building that is now vacant. During the meeting there was some discussion of the building itself, with one suggestion for the city to make it available for artist studios and another suggestion that perhaps the city could sell it and use the money to purchase Staddon Field. I do not recall a motion about the matter, but it seemed that the Board was agreeable to having April's meeting there. So if you are interested in seeing what the inside of the building looks like, or if you have some suggestions about possible uses for the building, plan on attending the next Park Board meeting on April 7, probably at 6:00 pm.

Official minutes of the Board meetings can be found here. Here are the minutes of the February meeting.


Anonymous said...

Excellent informative post with interesting illustrative photos. Your blogging efforts are appreciated!

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Love the ice photos, and I learned about the disagreement between the parks, city, and Blacker Trust. Hummmm.....