April 18, 2010 by wcobserver
The West Fork Parks Commission met at 5:30 p.m. Mar. 10. Present were Mayor Jan Throgmorton, Parks Director Stephen Sprick, Chair John Sleph, Commissioners Brian Bowerman, Russell Ogle, Vicky Mesplay, and David Roebke. Bobbi Henington was absent. Tracey Risley resigned shortly before his term expired.
After approving the financial report, the commission heard a presentation by Joe Desoto who heads a parent led organization, Youth Football. The organization participates in a league with 10 county teams serving about 65-80 kids in grades 4, 5 and 6. They play nine games a year. The young athletes pay a $50 registration fee and are provided with about $150 worth of equipment. The league uses school fields, provides referees and other services. Parents are responsible for their own insurance.
Desoto stated he has enjoyed involvement with Youth Football but his kids are older and he wants to move to other things. He noted that several other cities’ parks operate the youth football program.
Commissioners Roebke and Bowerman both asked if the organization made a “profit” and whether it was “in the black.” Desoto said it generates about $6,500 a year. Chair Selph asked if the money left over at the end of the year would be handed off to the city if they chose to take over its operation. Desoto said no.
Mayor Throgmorton wondered if a decision could be delayed in order to do more research. Chair Selph said that timing with regard to the budget was a concern and more “solid numbers” were needed.
Parks Director Sprick introduced Doug Pope as a candidate for the opening on the commission created by the resignation of Tracey Risley. Pope has lived in West Fork nine years and has three children. He is a Fayetteville Police Officer, has held no previous civic positions and has no youth program experience he stated.
Mayor Throgmorton emphasized the importance of the position saying, “Parks are at the heart of the community, that’s where the kids are.” Adding that “the Commission is a ruling body, it can make decisions without going through the council.” Commissioner Bowerman spoke of the vision for the park which included a future skateboard park. No decision was made.
The Commissioners then embarked on the night’s main event – smoking in the West Fork city parks. An ordinance banning smoking in the parks introduced at Tuesday’s council meeting was sent to the Parks Commission for further consideration before going to the City Attorney to be drafted.
The chair recognized Ward Four City Councilmember Julie Shafer. She said she didn’t like the wording of the proposed ordinance because it included all the parks. She argued that the city would lose needed revenue. If someone came to town to fish in the river and smoking was not allowed then “fishermen might not come to town.” She also refuted the argument that smoking in the park set a bad example for children by pointing out that “children see smokers everywhere.” She said that she is a courteous smoker who steps away from children and puts her butts in the proper receptacle.
Commissioner Bowerman said he was the one who brought the ordinance forward. His children are allergic to cigarette smoke, second hand smoke is proven dangerous and other towns do not allow smoking in parks. Shaffer suggested regulations in just the ball park- not all parks.
A back and forth discussion ensued. Sprick,Bowernan, Roebke and Selph all made comments against smoking in the parks. Comments pointed to issues of community health, smokers cost to all society, trash problems, the no tobacco policy in schools, and the idea that parks exist to promote good health.
Resident Christi Griffin asked if the ban had anything to do with government funding for parks. She said she is no longer a smoker but smokers have rights, if it bothers you, “you can walk away.” She said banning was wrong and suggested a designated smoking area. Bowerman pointed out the commission did not need to make any concessions on the issue. The mayor suggested looking at both sides- smokers pay taxes. She suggested a designated smoking area away from kids was a compromise. Bowerman pointed out that “paying taxes does not give you right to do something” and repeated that the commission need not make concessions on the issue.
Council member Shafer asked about having a public meeting. Mayor Throgmorton replied, “We have a compromise, we don’t need to go stirring things up.”
(At this point the reporter was experiencing dizziness caused by missing supper and lost the stream of thought in the discussion. When he recovered the phrase “parking lot” had entered the room)
The mayor declared that the parking lot should be the designated cigarette smoking area. Christi Griffin commented that West Fork was not like “every other city.” Councilmember Schafer said it was a “fair compromise.” Chair Selph said he will instruct City Attorney Rusty Hudson to draft an ordinance making the parking lot the designated smoking area and to include the emergency clause so the ordinance can be effective immediately. Shafer thanked the commission.
The commission agreed to have a special meeting on the night before the next city council meeting.
After the 7 p.m adjournment the reporter went home and revived himself with meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and sweet tea.
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