Parks commission making progress on new financial reporting system

Friday, December 27, 2019

By Samantha Jones

After voting to hire a local accounting service earlier this month, the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is smoothing out the financial reporting process.

Commissioner Scott Bardin said he met with Rusty Windle of Windle & Associates to discuss the new system, saying he feels optimistic about where things are going. Bardin said Windle is waiting on some information to start creating financial statements for 2019. Director Justin Huss said he met with Windle as well.

"The best thing we found in our discussions is we can still utilize the Quickbooks with the online features that will give [Windle] the data," Huss said. "We had some tweaks to the cost center and how that's coded, but that allows us to maintain generally the same operations."

Huss added, "From our end, that made us a lot more comfortable with not literally relearning our entire process. I thought that was a good decision you made."

Bardin agreed.

"I feel confident we sought the right professional service for this," Bardin said. "I look forward to this coming year, because we're going to have a better handle on what we want to do and where we want to go."

Chairman Bill Featherstone had only good things to say about the decision to outsource accounting services.

"[Windle] has impressed me. He's proven to throw himself in it, analyze it real quickly and figure out the best way to do things," Featherstone said. "He's not fixed on one way to serve us and he has a good grasp of what it is we're trying to accomplish."

Working with Windle means the commission will have more detailed financial reports, Huss said.

"Figure out what it is y'all want on there and we can get that created a bunch of different ways," Huss said. "I look forward to that side of it. It's great."

The commission moved on to hear from Trella Laughlin about installing a plaque commemorating the work of attorney Cheryl Maples, who died earlier this year. Laughlin said Maples was an advocate for gay rights in Arkansas.

"I've been gay all my life and Cheryl Maples was the first person who stood up for me," Laughlin said. "I hope you realize what this will mean to a great number of people in our town."

The plaque wouldn't cost the commission a dime, Laughlin said. Laughlin said she is working with other locals to raise $10,000 for the plaque, which would be created by a well-known sculptor. She hopes to place the plaque in Basin Spring Park, Laughlin said.

"You get to choose where you want us to put it in Basin Park," Laughlin said. "It would be lighted. It would be safe from vandalism. It would honor all of us: gay, straight, tall, fat and old."

It would be tough to take care of that immediately, Featherstone said, because the Basin Park Committee is just starting to gain traction after being dormant for some time. Bardin said he has heard from seven or eight people who would like to be involved with the committee.

"They were really excited to know they could have a part in recommendations for the park itself," Bardin said.

Featherstone asked how soon Laughlin would like to install the plaque and she said she wanted to complete the project by 2021.

"You have to give us enough time to raise the money," Laughlin said.

The commission agreed to keep the project in mind and Laughlin said she'd keep everyone updated on the fundraising process.

Also at the meeting, commissioner Ruth Hager said she's spoken with Blair Johanson of Johanson Group Management Consulting Services about updating the policies and procedures manual. Hager said she'd like to work with the firm and Huss suggested waiting until after the next budget workshop.

"We have a lot to figure out and another $5,000 is not nothing," Huss said. "I think it's important that the commission fully understands the budget realities we face. There is a budget created. It's a matter of moving around and making some decisions."

Featherstone said the 2020 budget must be approved by Jan. 31 and the commission agreed to revisit the idea of working with the Johanson Group after the next budget workshop is held.

In other business, commissioner Christian Super gave an update on the master plan process. Super said the parks survey has been completed by 9 percent of local citizens, saying he expects that number to increase by 1 percent by the end of the year. Featherstone asked what Super has been doing to get more people to fill out the survey and Super said it's been more of the same.

"We went from sending 700 emails to about 3,700," Super said. "We produced paper fliers and distributed them in several locations in town."

The commission's next regular meeting is schedule for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, at The Auditorium.

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