Following a year of big new park projects, the chairman of the Johnson County Park & Recreation District wants another go at the job.
Commissioner Paul Snider told board members Wednesday that he had enjoyed the past ten-and-a-half months leading the board and felt staying on as chairman could help provide necessary continuity.
“You go through a significant amount of ramp up in activities” as chairman, Snider said. “To have that come to a fairly quick end after you actually know what you’re doing I think is unfortunate.”
However, that would require abandoning the board’s traditional process of passing the leadership mantle to the next most-senior member at the end of each year.
Commissioner Nancy Wallerstein, who didn’t attend Wednesday’s meeting, is currently scheduled to take over as chairwoman next year. Commissioner Chris Carroll said he had spoken with Wallerstein about Snider’s proposal and that she was fine with delaying her term to 2018.
“I personally believe that under the direction and leadership of our current chairman we made considerable progress this year, and with the goals the board and staff are planning in 2017, I think it’s important to maintain consistency as we enter into the new year,” Carroll said.
But other commissioners said they were opposed to the move.
Commissioner Michael Pirner, who is currently scheduled to become chairman in 2018, called the proposal a “nuclear bomb” that would create a precedent for two-year terms and exacerbate differences among board members while ultimately splitting the commission into rival campaign factions.
“I don’t think we need politics and elections on an appointed parks board,” Pirner said. “I think that would be a profound mistake.”
The move could have repercussions for Pirner, whose turn as chairman would be pushed back to 2019 — assuming he’s reappointed, as his current term on the board expires at the end of January 2019.
He also questioned whether board members had discussed the nomination slate before the meeting, which would violate state open meetings law.
“This is war, and I will take it all the way,” he said.
Commissioner Leslee Rivarola also opposed the change and suggested Wallerstein had agreed to delay her turn as she would then be the face of the district in 2018 when the highly anticipated Meadowbrook Park is scheduled to open in Prairie Village.
She also said the move was aimed at punishing Pirner, who frequently clashes with other board members over financial issues in the district.
“I was disappointed to hear that this is where we are as a group,” Rivarola said.
Commissioner George Schlagel and County Commissioner Steve Klika, who sits on the board, said they didn’t have a problem with allowing Snider to remain chairman.
Schlagel noted that he served as chairman in 2011 and again in 2014 when some other board members stepped down.
“There has been some history of people not moving up,” he said.
Klika added, “I think we’re making a big deal out of this. I don’t have a problem with a two-year term, especially with a body (whose members) don’t change that often.”
The board ultimately voted 3-2 to accept the list of nominated board officers for 2017 with Snider as chairman and Wallerstein as vice-chairwoman. The board will hold a final vote at its Dec. 21 meeting.
▪ The board decided against pursuing LEED “green building” certification for the Meadowbrook Activity Center that is slated to replace the old clubhouse at Meadowbrook Park after being told the process could add between $100,000 and $150,000 to the $3.8 million project.
LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) recognizes buildings that are designed, built and operated with minimal effect on the environment.
▪ Board members voted to advance $350,000 from contingency funds to the Johnson County Museum to help cover the costs for building the KidScape Experience, a children-focused area in the museum scheduled to begin construction at the old King Louie building in Overland Park early next year.
Jill Geller, the park district’s executive director, said museum officials have raised about $1.4 million of the $1.7 million needed for the museum and needed the district’s help to stay on schedule. She said the museum will pay the district back over the next three years.
▪ The board also voted to approve final design plans for the first phase of Big Bull Creek Park, covering around $3.7 million in proposed construction and activity areas near the central entrance to the park off Sunflower Road and for a group camping area off 213th Street.
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