MetroParks board adopts changes, establishes advisory committees
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Old wounds appeared on their way to healing Monday after the Mill Creek MetroParks board adopted several changes that some community members have been asking for since implementation in February of a controversial staff restructuring.
The changes, proposed by new board member Tom Shipka, include adding board work sessions and committees that will advise the board on various policy matters.
Shipka advocated in strong terms for immediate adoption of his proposals.
“These proposals reflect my best judgments as to how ... we can work to recapture some of the public confidence and trust that has been lost in recent months,” he said.
One proposal, set to take effect no later than January 2017, stipulates that the board host bimonthly work sessions “to provide for greater discussion of and deliberation of park matters by the board of commissioners and staff ... and greater input to the board by individuals and groups with special park concerns and interests.”
During those meetings, individuals and groups will be invited to make presentations to the board.
Shipka, Germaine Bennett and Lee Frey voted for that change; Robert Durick abstained; and board president John Ragan voted against it, insisting it needed further “clarification.”
Another proposal adopted by the board – with just Ragan voting against – sets up standing advisory committees on the following topics: finance, development, employee relations, wildlife, recreation, nature education, environment, horticulture and volunteers. Each committee will have five voting members, to be appointed by the board president.
Some community members who have been critical of park leaders in recent months expressed satisfaction with the changes.
“I certainly think it will help. It’s something of an olive branch extended to the public by the board,” said Rick Shale, a former MetroParks board member who also was part of a screening committee that helped Mahoning County Probate Judge Robert N. Rusu Jr. select Frey and Shipka to fill vacant board seats.
“I was very pleased. I think it will add what we want, which is transparency and public input into the park,” said Jeff Harvey, who also was on that committee.
Thanking the board for accepting his “sweeping” proposals, Shipka also had a request for members of public.
“I’m going to ask for your cooperation. Give us some time,” he said. “I think the votes tonight show you: We are listening. Those who have been particularly vocal, please tone it down a little and give the new path time to settle in.”