LIGONIER — Due to problems with trying to find a new parks superintendent, Ligonier is now mulling a plan to change the name of the job, dissolve the park board and reorganize the parks department under a different structure.
But local residents attending Monday’s Ligonier City Council meeting didn’t seem too enthusiastic about the sudden changes.
Alan Duncan retired from his position as the superintendent of parks and recreation in March. The city has had a difficult time finding a replacement, so Duncan was added back into the payroll as a part-time superintendent until someone new is hired.
But according to Ligonier Mayor Patty Fisel, a thorough search has been conducted to no avail. She said she has asked qualified people with the required parks and recreation degree if they would be willing to come to Ligonier for the salary they can offer, and people have withdrawn their applications upon hearing the salary.
“I can tell you, a lot of the applications I’ve received that have the qualifications of a superintendent, once they found out what the pay was, they declined and withdrew their applications,” Fisel said. “I just want to make that clear.”
According to Indiana Code, in order to hire a park superintendent, a candidate needs to: “be qualified by training or experience in the field of parks and recreation or have a certification or an advanced degree in the field of parks and recreation.”
City Attorney Steve Clouse said if they hire a director instead of a superintendent they can hire someone without the parks and recreation degree. If this were to happen, the park board would be dissolved and the parks department would be reorganized as a “park authority” under the supervision of the Ligonier Board of Works instead of an appointed board.
In the Indiana Code under the section regarding park authorities, it simply states the authority is empowered to “manage all public parks, including approaches, that belong to the municipality.”
Nancy Davidson, Ligonier resident, was the first to speak about the issue. She asked Fisel why this is the conclusion they came to. Clouse answered for the mayor.
“There is an option of the Indiana Code that the council has the discretion of how the parks can be managed,” Clouse said. “One option is to have a park authority as opposed to a park board. It may be more semantics than anything because the park authority will operate much in the same way as the park board does. It would be the board of works and safety that meets twice a month.”
She was not satisfied with that answer. So she asked why the park board had to be dissolved in order for this to work.
“The qualifications for a superintendent for parks and recreation are very strenuous,” Clouse said. “They are very limiting. When you reorganize and have a park authority, you are no longer appointing a superintendent but a director.”
Davidson does not think that the city has looked hard enough in their search. Fisel said they posted the job on state websites and other job boards.
“I think you are just wanting to put in who you want to put in, even if they aren’t qualified,” Davidson said. “It’s upsetting.”
Three other people spoke against dissolving. They asked if the city would give people time to petition. Fisel said to come to the special meeting today at 6 p.m. and the regular park board meeting Monday at 6 p.m. Both meetings will take place at the Ligonier Sports and Recreation Center.
Clouse explained more about the decision-making process.
“This has not been a quick decision,” Clouse said. “It was very well researched and thought out.”
Water Superintendent Jeff Boyle spoke for the city’s recommendation.
“They started talking to people before Alan even retired,” Boyle said.
The current president of the Ligonier Park Board Brian Hite even made comments saying this is what is good for the city.
“To answer a lot of questions and to put things to rest, this thing has been advertised on not only the state websites, but it’s been advertised on LinkedIn. It’s been advertised across college campuses that offer these credentials. We’re between a rock and a hard place. What we want to do is we want to do what is best for the community. It’s nothing about the board. These guys are just trying to do what is best for us. Plain and simple,” Hite said.
According to Clouse and Fisel, in order to get the certification a person needs years of experience.
The ordinance was brought before the council for the first reading Monday. Three readings are required. In order for it to be passed into law, all three readings need to be approved. The first reading was approved Monday. At the next city council meeting, the members could potentially pass the second and third reading in one sitting.
In other business, the council:
• Held its second public hearing for the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs for its stormwater grant.
• Approved phase one of the Park Meadow Development that Granite Ridge proposed. The first phase will include 30 homes.
• Approved the hiring of an 11th police officer for the Ligonier Police Department. This officer will be a School Resource Officer for West Noble School Corp.