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Update: Church not operating park just yet

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By Calen McKinney

Campbellsville Baptist Church hasn't taken over the operation of Veterans Memorial Park just yet.

At a meeting of the Taylor Fiscal Court Planning, Parks and Recreation Committee last Thursday night, Magistrate Richard Phillips announced that the lease will be voted on by Campbellsville Baptist's members on Sunday, March 8.

David Akers, the church's minister of recreation, said Friday morning that he believes the congregation will vote to lease the park, though he can't be sure.

Campbellsville Baptist submitted one of five proposals the Committee received to operate VMP this upcoming sports season. Akers said the church decided to submit a proposal because church officials see the park as a way to minister to the community.

He said a cleaning day at the park was held this past weekend, and plans are under way to host sporting events to benefit the Taylor County Food Pantry.

Chris Ambers, the church's chairman of outdoor activities, said the church plans to revamp the softball leagues at VMP, along with fixing the volleyball courts and adding flag football for adults and youth. Other than adding those sports, he said, the church doesn't plan on changing much of how VMP operates.

At the regular Fiscal Court meeting earlier this month, magistrates unanimously approved contracting with the church from March 1 through Oct. 31.

The future of Veterans Memorial Park has been the topic of several governmental meetings in the past few months and began with a County budget discussion at last October's Fiscal Court meeting.

At that meeting, Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers asked magistrates to consider whether changing the operation of VMP could save money.

As a result, the Court's Planning, Parks and Recreation Committee met to discuss the issue, and members shared their thoughts with magistrates at the December Court meeting, one of which was to lease operation of the park to a group or organization.

In late January, the Committee hosted a public meeting for anyone interested in operating the park.

Phillips, who is a member of the Committee, said at that meeting and at the Court's meeting earlier this month, that the County would continue to pay for park utility costs and liability insurance premiums, along with being responsible for mowing and maintaining heavy equipment.

Phillips told magistrates that the church has experience operating sports leagues.

Ed Gorin, who serves on the Committee with Phillips, told magistrates that Campbellsville Baptist officials have assured the Committee that they are going to continue operating the park as it is now, and they want people to realize that VMP is a community park and not their own.

Last Thursday, Akers and Ambers met with Phillips and Gorin and former VMP Director Mark Pike to discuss the workings of the park.

Akers said the church is considering building another concession stand.

Pike said that he believes the church should also consider adding another restroom for public use. He said the park currently only has one set of restrooms, though Campbellsville University officials have built their own private facilities at the park.

Committee members also discussed the possibility of installing a fence around the park's playground equipment.

Phillips said Rogers, who did not attend Thursday's meeting, has applied for a grant that could help pay for the cost of the fence but hasn't yet heard if it has been awarded.

Pike said the County received about $14,000 in reimbursement for wind damage on the VMP site and that money could be used.

Phillips said the Committee could wait and make a decision as to how to spend the money after the County receives word on the grant application.

The Committee agreed to recommend that the Court ask a local bank if it would be willing to pay the cost of installing a fence, after first getting a quote as to how much the installation will cost.

If the bank does not wish to sponsor the cost, Phillips said, the Committee will recommend that the Court agree to advertise for bids to install the fence.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.