By Taylor Boyd
Members of the Stuart Park and Recreation Association Board of Directors asked the Stuart Council for financial help with DeHart Park.
Robert Hiatt, board representative, said the organization is becoming increasingly concerned with the park’s sustainability.
“We are coming up on some times where we know that the minimum wages are going to increase, and we are finding ourselves doing a lot more fundraising,” he said, adding that it is increasingly difficult to keep the park staffed.
Hiatt said he is concerned that sustainability of the pool particularly may come into question.
“We would like to ask for the council to consider an annual investment into the park. We’ve been members for multiple years, and we feel that the park has been an excellent representative of the Town of Stuart,” he said.
Hiatt said the group will continue its fundraising efforts to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the park, even if the town decides to make a financial investment. Those funds would primarily be used to pay staff, particularly for lifeguards for the pool.
Park representative David Pleasants said the playground is another issue. It was installed about 35-years-ago. “To replace a playground right now it’s $40,000.”
Hiatt said about $15,000 annually would be helpful in hiring and retaining staff.
Mayor Ray Weiland said that while the town could not afford that sizeable of a contribution, it would like to help.
“We do keep some money aside, and we certainly want to help. I think we do have some available in the budget,” he said.
Town Manager Bryce Simmons said the town has contribution funds available and added that he “would like to see if there are ways that the town could partner” with park officials on “bigger and better” fundraising events.
Weiland said the council will examine its funds at an upcoming budget meeting and determine what it is able to contribute on an annual basis. A vote is planned for the Jan. 19 meeting.
In other matters, the council:
*Presented resolutions to Eagle Scouts Zachary Heath and Jaheim Johnson for projects that were done in town limits.
*Voted to set aside $20,000 in town-generated funds and write a letter of support to the West Piedmont Planning District (WPPD) to seek a joint application to the Federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) for an economic resiliency plan between participating localities that include not only Stuart, but Patrick and Franklin counties.
In the town, Simmons said development of a growth and resiliency plan would include “the items that would be specific are utility mapping for water and sewer, to include system modelling and analysis for identifying compacity improvements, available property index for commercial and industrial development, and a comprehensive housing study for both counties.”
Simmons also asked that the plan include a zoning review and improvements, and added he felt it was in the town’s best interests to provide a local match for the WPPD’s application.
The EDA grant requires a 20 percent match, which means that $20,000 provided by the locality could result in a $100,000 project for the town.
“With the recent mapping that we’ve done, we could probably get our utilities mapping completed with these funds, and it would be awesome if we could secure that,” Weiland said.
*Voted to give fulltime town employees a $200 Christmas bonus and part-time employees a bonus based on Simmons’ judgement.
*Tabled a discussion about creating a Thomas Stuart Day.
*Approved the meeting minutes from the Nov. 17 meeting as written.
*Heard an update from Simmons on the wastewater treatment plant.
*Was formally introduced to Patrick County Emergency Management Services (EMS) Director Scott Cooper.
*Heard an update about local repair projects.
*Paid the bills.
Town Attorney Christopher Corbett did not attend the meeting.