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September 23, 2012Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2012, at 12:09 PM
The Malden Park and Recreation Board consists of nine members appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council. The board exists because the Statutes of Missouri require such a board if a tax for parks is levied on the citizens. In the 1990's, the people of Malden voted to collect a one-fourth cent sales tax to fund parks and recreation in Malden. About $130,000 has been generated annually by this tax. Half of the $130,000 is passed through to the Bootheel Youth Museum to help pay for its operations.
The Parks and Recreation Board also operates the Hank Watson Memorial Golf Course known by most as the "municipal course." None of the money collected by the parks and recreation sales tax goes to the golf course.
I went to the Park and Recreation Board meeting this past week and notified six of the members whose terms had expired that I would not be reappointing them. It is my intent to find replacements by the next regular meeting of the Malden City Council, October 15th.
I try to write this piece every week. I call it my homework, and I attempt to explain and describe what I personally believe is happening with your local government.
The people of the Park and Recreation Board that I told I would not be reappointing have worked hard for this town. They have worked without pay. They have been what I fervently believe is the backbone that keeps any community going. They have been volunteers.
Why did I decide to replace them? There is no one particular reason, but I will enumerate some in no particular order:
1. A significant amount of money has accrued in the park fund account. It represents more than one year's tax collections. The money needs to be spent or Malden needs to stop collecting the tax.
2. Three of the last four people I appointed to the park board resigned in short order. When I asked why, I was told, "I didn't feel welcome."
3. Board meetings were held away from the public facility that existed for such meetings. The meetings were held at a place of business. Such meetings skate close to violating Missouri's so called Sunshine Law.
4. The permanent public toilets in the parks were closed after repeated acts of vandalism and replaced with portable toilets. I asked that the permanent toilets be maintained.
5. A continuing low simmer of unhappiness has been present between the park board and the employees of the City of Malden, elected officials of Malden, and members of the Malden Public School system.
6. Little "recreation" is present in the Malden Parks and Recreation system. I frequently hear the complaint, "There is nothing to do in Malden." Our job is not to entertain the masses, but I believe we can provide some opportunities for everyone to have healthy exercise. For instance, can we organize some men's and women's athletic leagues or repair the public tennis courts or build some shuffle board courts?
7. No plans existed for the future improvement of our parks and recreation system that I am aware of.
I do not list all these things to berate the former park board members. I am attempting to explain my thinking. They did the best they could. They have been consumed in recent years with keeping the municipal golf course open in the face of economic turmoil. The golf course is still not in the best of shape financially, but thanks to severe measures taken by the former board members and an infusion of more than $100,000 from the City of Malden general fund the golf course is still alive and functioning. The board members were all long acquaintances or good friends, and I hope they will come to believe there was nothing personal in my action.
There is a municipal election in April of 2013 in Malden. I intend to be a candidate for mayor. The public can make whatever judgment they believe correct. If you are interested in serving on the park board please give me a call at 276-4502.
The Malden City Council meets October 15th at 7:00 P.M. at the city hall. We will, as always, spend your money wisely or foolishly (or act wisely or foolishly) depending on your point of view. Please join us if you so desire.
The financial report is as follows:
September 14, 2012
September 21, 2012
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From the desk of Mayor Ray Santie