Clarkdale Sustainability Park draws some heat

Vice Mayor Wiley digs in his heels in opposition

Phil Terbell: “This project is way beyond the scope of Clarkdale.”

Phil Terbell: “This project is way beyond the scope of Clarkdale.”

CLARKDALE- Authorization to apply for a grant relating to the Clarkdale Sustainability Park was placed under the consent agenda for the Town Council's meeting Tuesday night. The consent agenda is a way to expedite routine items with little or no discussion. But this item was pulled from the consent agenda and resulted in considerable debate before it was approved.

One of 10 items on the consent agenda, the request for permission to apply for a grant from the Walton Family Foundation was pulled by councilman Richard Dehnert for discussion.

The item was a request to apply for a $156,000 grant. The sticking point for Vice Mayor Jerry Wiley was that the grant application shows a $74,100 match from Clarkdale. The match would be $3,000 for travel and miscellaneous expenses and $71,100 would be "in-kind." The in-kind portion would be staff salaries and benefits for the time that town employees would work on the grant project.

Wiley said there are a lot of things that the $74,100 could be used for. "This council has a responsibility to the Town of Clarkdale to provide essential services," he said.

Town Manager Gayle Mabery pointed out that the $74,000 comes from staff time and not from additional funds.

Wiley said he supports the Clarkdale Sustainability Park as long as it is not a financial burden on the town. He said that if there is that much extra time for the town employees, maybe the staff should be trimmed even more.

"We had an agreement not to impose on the people of Clarkdale," Wiley said.

Mayor Doug Von Gausig asked Wiley if he would support efforts to bring a large industry to town.

"We're not talking about that," Wiley said. "Let's not play games with this."

Von Gausig said, "Those salaries are going to be paid anyway." He said that if the town doesn't get this grant the staff will continue to spend time working on the Sustainability Park, about $74,000 worth of time.

Wiley said that originally the feasibility study was supposed to cost about $100,000, but now estimates are from $500,000 to $800,000. He said that nobody in his or her right mind would go into something like this.

Clarkdale resident Ellie Bauer said that Clarkdale citizens were recently asked about some of the things they want done. She mentioned opening the public swimming pool. Bauer said the council forgets the things that are important to the community.

"How about focusing on what's important today," Bauer said.

Phil Terbell, Clarkdale resident and local real estate broker, said that no one will say they're against the Sustainability Park. "It's warm and fuzzy," he said. But he also said that the park is too good to be true.

Terbell questioned how the town has the money to work on the Sustainability Park, but the council had to raise sales taxes and property taxes. He said he wouldn't spend the first dollar on this project until he knew exactly what it is going to cost.

Von Gausig said the staff time has to be spent on something.

"This project is way beyond the scope of Clarkdale," Terbell said. He said to let the people who've sent letters of support for the park put up the $74,000.

Terbell asked how to explain to the people that the town has laid off how the town has $74,000 to spend on this.

Von Gausig entered a motion to approve the agenda item, and Dehnert seconded the motion.

During discussion, Dehnert said that town staff has not neglected any duties to work on the sustainability project.

It passed three votes to one, with Wiley the only "no" vote. Councilwoman Pat Williams was absent.

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