HUBER HEIGHTS — Huber Heights City Council Monday night voted to sound the starting gun in a project to improve the city’s parks and recreation system.
Council voted to enter into a contract for not more than $45,000 with PROS Consulting Inc. for phase one of a parks and recreation master plan. PROS will conduct a needs assessment, land usage and development plan for the city’s park system.
A second, later phase would map out the implementation of the plan.
Council member Judy Blankenship, was thrilled that the city is moving forward on a master plan for recreation.
“This is what we’re looking for,” she said. “We can’t keep going on the same old thing that we’ve done because we’re putting Band-Aids on everything and we’re just going to put money after money. We may as well do it right and get it done the first time.”
Council Member Janelle Smith questioned the cost of the contract and suggested there might be some duplication of services between what the YMCA does to help manage the city’s recreational facilities and what the master plan will be doing.
“I think it would very prudent for us to see what is duplicated in the services and maybe we can cut down on the expense,” Smith said.
Council Member Richard Shaw said he had talked to the presidents of the Huber Heights Little League, Huber Heights Girls Softball Association and the youth soccer league.
“All three organizations are 100 percent on board with the phase one plan only, with the understanding I gave them my word that this council has moved in the direction to look into and move forward on a short-term maintenance plan where residents of the city can see actionable change in their parks this year,” Shaw said. “If the calculations work out correctly, with the money we’re going to save by not completing this entire plan, we could have roughly $119,000 in our parks budget to go after a short-term maintenance plan.”
City Manager Rob Schommer told council that city staff has been working on a short-term maintenance plan that will be presented at council’s next work session. Schommer and City Law Director also explained how the city recently received close to $73,000 from Montgomery County that could be used on the recreation project.
The money is a tax refund from the county on land the city purchased for the water park. The land originally was zoned agricultural and when Huber Heights purchased the land the city received a tax bill from the county at a higher rate as is mandated when agricultural land is sold for other uses. The city paid the tax, and then appealed. After years of working through the legal system, the city finally got the money refunded last week. Schommer asked council to place these funds in the recreation budget, and council agreed.
Council voted 6-1 to approve the first phase of the master plan and 6-1 to place the $72,880 from the county in the recreation budget. Smith voted against both issues. Council Member Tyler Starline was absent from Monday’s meeting, as was Mayor Tom McMasters.
After the meeting, Council Member Nancy Byrge, an advocate for the master plan, said she would have preferred to have it completed all at once but was willing to compromise to get the project started.
“I’m very glad to see the ball moving,” she said. “I’ve been pushing it since last August. It’s something the city needs desperately.
“In the spirit of trying to fix the whole problem and get everybody on board to support the parks and recreation master plan, we agreed we would do a short-term fix to get them through this first season safely because the fields are in terrible condition,” she said.
“We want safe, nice facilities for the kids and this master plan will get us there.”
Reach Dave Lindeman at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @HH_Courier.