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Parks and Rec Board holds first meeting of New Year

Parks and Rec Board holds first meeting of New Year
Charles City Parks and Rec Board members (from left to right) Chris Eldridge, Sarah Barrett and Diane Meyer sit in on a meeting in 2019. Jim Smith sits in the foreground. Press photo by Kelly Terpstra
By Kelly Terpstra,

A possible new park superintendent and when and how to mow city grass were among the issues discussed at the first Charles City Parks and Recreation Board meeting recently.

January and February is budget season and Parks and Rec Director Tyler Mitchell brought up numerous department issues that need to get pinned down before the city’s budget is completed.

One such consideration was how resourceful is the city in cutting grass?

“Jeff (Otto) and I have brought this up before. We need to take a look at how we mow and why we mow, as much as where we mow,” said board member Dennis Petersen.

“If they’d set their mowers to 3 inches and mow when it needs it, I think we could reduce the amount of mowing considerably,” said Petersen, who is beginning his 16th year on the Park and Rec Board. “We’ve seen people out mowing when it hasn’t rained in two weeks. We see people out mowing in the rain.”

Mitchell said he thought most of the mowing in the city is done on a predetermined schedule.

Otto, who was voted by the board to be its chairperson, suggested the city could seed many areas with wildflowers and native grasses to save money, resources and time by not mowing those spots.

Otto said some of those savings could be used to help pay for a new full-time park supervisor position that Mitchell has proposed.

“For the new members, Tyler’s on call for about 28 hours a day,” joked Petersen. “A lot of towns have another park person who handles a lot of the day-to-day things. So (Mitchell) can be more of an administrator and not be on call all the time.”

Mitchell said there is $40,000 budgeted for the possibility of hiring a new salaried position, not including the cost of benefits. He said during the summer the person would be working more than 40 hours a week some of the time.

“Steve Diers mentioned that other towns our size have more than one full-time employee doing work like this,” said Mitchell, referring to the city administrator. “We’ll see if we end up getting one or not.”

There was also talk about whether or not to rent out the city’s portable bandshells for events in the non-winter months. Mitchell said the cost to rent the bandshell runs from $50 to $100, depending on its use.

Petersen said the bandshell is usually not allowed to be taken out of town. That’s a decision the Parks and Rec Board made a few years back. The possibility of it getting damaged by someone not knowing how to set it up and take it down factored into that decision.

Petersen said in years past, a city employee had to be present in order for the bandshell to be rented out.

“It just opened up a can of worms we weren’t ready to deal with at the time,” said Petersen. “The people in Charles City understood how to set it up and take it down. They were trained to do that. It was just easier to keep it here.”

Mitchell said the bandshell is stored at the Cedar Valley Transportation Center and a city street department employee usually delivers the large stage to its required destination. He also said if it is used for a city function, the use is free. He said there were two or three different non-city entities that rented the unit last year. The Floyd County Fairgrounds uses its own bandshell for its events, he said.

“It’s a service the city offers,” said Mitchell.

Other board members suggested raising the fee to rent the structure.

New Parks and Rec Board members Dana Sullivan and Adam Buseman introduced themselves to the other five board members. Sullivan and Buseman replaced Ken Sheckler and Jim Smith on the board.

Board member Sarah Barrett was voted by the group to be the vice chairperson. Also in attendance at the meeting were board members Diane Meyer and Chris Eldridge. Smith sat in on the meeting as an ex officio member.