Parks commission agrees to pay interim director $25 an hour

Thursday, October 29, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs Parks Commission voted on Tuesday, Oct. 20, to pay interim director Scott Miskiel $25 an hour.

Chairwoman Ruth Hager moved to adjourn to executive session to "discuss employee pay rate and promotion and duties" 36 minutes into the meeting. The executive session lasted approximately 30 minutes. When the commission returned from executive session, commissioner Dave Hartmann moved to pay Miskiel $25 an hour for a maximum of 40 hours a week and the commission unanimously agreed to do so.

Earlier in the meeting, Miskiel addressed the commission for the first time as interim director. Miskiel said he'd like to have "enhanced communication" and encouraged citizens to call him if they have an issue with something happening at the parks.

"I will be very responsive," Miskiel said. "I tend to respond to my emails or phone calls within one business day, so that will be one of the first things we will implement immediately."

Miskiel addressed progress at the Beacham Trail at Lake Leatherwood City Park, something citizen Sharon Roberts mentioned during public comments. Roberts said she was surprised to see "either white rock aggregate or a chat surface" placed on the trail "that was previously a natural gravel."

"My hope is that is not a chat, because chat does contain a poisonous quality to the dust surface," Roberts said.

Roberts added that she noticed some gravel excavation from the creek bed, saying it was used to fill the erosion along the trail. Miskiel said the Beacham Trail is both a trail and a road, used in the past by emergency services. It was impassable for quite a while, Miskiel said, because the culvert washed out.

"So we did repair that about two weeks ago. We did double up the culvert so it will accommodate twice the volume of water and, yes, we did in fact do some extensive rock work to stabilize that," Miskiel said. "You have to in that sort of situation."

Miskiel reiterated that the trail needs to be used as a road and said he contacted the fire department to let them know about the repair.

"They were happy to hear that the road has been opened back up, and they're going to make sure that's passable for them," Miskiel said.

Miskiel continued his report, saying the playgrounds at Harmon Park and Lake Leatherwood City Park have reopened to the public. Former director Justin Huss closed the playgrounds in April because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Harmon Park was more or less open. People just tore down the tape that has been there, but the bathrooms are open now as well," Miskiel said. "We're doing a lot of cleanup around the playground area [at Lake Leatherwood City Park]. We're removing old tree stumps that were out there."

Miskiel said he's waiting to hear from the City Advertising and Promotion Commission about funds for Christmas decorations the CAPC's decision will inform how he chooses to decorate the city, Misiel said.

"A good part of those funds go to compensate the personnel hours that are put into decorating and it is substantial," Miskiel said. "I have not been able to verify what, if anything, we are getting."

No matter what happens, Miskiel said, he doesn't plan to string lights over the cables in Basin Spring Park. Miskiel said that installation costs $5,000 in equipment and personnel.

"We can do that in a more efficient way," Miskiel said. "We also had an issue last year with the big lift we had in there. Frankly, it was scary. It almost tipped with two people in the bucket."

Miskiel continued, "I just don't believe it's worth $5,000 and putting people's life and safety at risk to do it in the way we've done it in the past. That will be the only significant change, assuming the funds are still there that we've expected in the past."

He's also working on improving the dog park, Miskiel said.

"We are committing resources to the dog park. We were out there blowing leaves just this past week," Miskiel said. "If we get the mini-excavator in town, we will haul in some more gravel to the dog park area, which has been requested."

In other business, the commission approved its first and second quarter financials. Commissioner Kevin Ruehle said he wasn't completely happy with the final documents because all the revenue was rolled into one category, despite the commission receiving revenue from two tax streams.

"I feel comfortable that these are approvable, but we should never see this again," Ruehle said. "This has got to be better. This is practically unusable as any tool. That has to do with poor record keeping in the first part of the year, so I don't think we're going to see that get much better but it has to get better than this because there's no way you're going to budget off of this."

Hager agreed.

"We can't improve what's not there. These numbers are missing. The information is missing, but from now on we can make it usable," Hager said.

Also at the meeting, commissioner Scott Bardin moved to reject all proposals for shuttle services, saying he wanted to close the request for proposals and "take no further action regarding this request for proposals." The reason for that, Bardin said, is that the dates did not line up in the original document requesting proposals.

"[Huss] had made the bid opening date prior to the bid question due date and the bid answer date," Bardin said. "He was supposed to have gone back and changed the bid opening date and reissued the RFP with a new bid open date and never did."

Bardin continued, "When you have an error on a bid, it's best to reject all RFP offers and close the bid down and if you want to come back and follow the process again, you can rebid it. But this particular RFP has flaws and is really not a bid or RFP we want to try to correct."

Dustin Slaughter, who submitted the only RFP, said he was a frustrated that there wasn't "support for honoring a bid that was received."

"It could very well harm me that my bid proposal is now made known and has been distributed after it was opened on the date that was stated in the bid solicitation document," Slaughter said. "My attorney suggests that the city attorney that helped make the bid solicitation document might help advise which direction this goes."

Hager asked if the commission would like to table the motion and Bardin said he wouldn't rescind his motion. The commission then voted, with Bardin, Ruehle and Carmen Burden voting in favor of it and Hartmann, Christian Super and Sam Dudley abstaining. Hager chose not to vote, so the motion failed.

Hager said she'd talk to city attorney Tim Weaver to straighten the issue out.

The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, at The Auditorium.

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