Discussion continues on park board committee
By Jordyn Grzelewski
The Mill Creek MetroParks board will consider a revised version of a motion that created board-advisory committees.
An amended version of board member Tom Shipka’s proposal that was approved in July was presented at a work session Monday by board member Germaine Bennett. Her proposal deviates only slightly from Shipka’s.
Instead of nine five-member committees that focus on finance, development, wildlife, nature education, recreation, volunteers, environment, horticulture and employee relations, Bennett suggested elimination of the employee relations committee and combining recreation and volunteers into a “community engagement” committee.
She also proposed increasing to seven the number of people allowed on each committee.
Bennett also defended recommendations previously given to the board by MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young that suggested reducing the number of committees to five, and making the committees report to him instead of the board.
Young was criticized for his recommendations by several members of the public during Monday’s regular board meeting.
“His proposal would make meaningless the whole purpose of the committees,” said Barbara Brothers, who is among a group suing Young and the park board over their handling of a staff restructuring implemented in February.
“The committees have to report directly to the board,” said Anna Adams. “The park is in desperate need of fresh ideas. We need the nine committees to bring those ideas to you, the board.”
Bennett stressed the board asked Young for his input, and insisted that making the committees report to him would have been done not to be less transparent, but to free committee members from the responsibilities of the Ohio Sunshine Laws that govern public boards and their committees.
“Immediately, everyone assumed he wanted to take control,” she said. “The trust was not there. ... Once I heard [what was] coming from the community itself, [about] the trust factor, I said, ‘Right now we’re not at that point.’”
The board agreed to schedule a special meeting sometime before its regular meeting Dec. 19 to formally approve an amended version of the committee motion, and possibly to review in executive session some of the nearly 70 people who have so far applied for seats.
In other business, the board approved a motion from Shipka that creates a full-time development director position.
The development director is required to work with not only the MetroParks, but also Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens and the Mill Creek MetroParks Foundation.
“The [park] foundation is on life support, frankly,” Shipka said. “We need an experienced, full-time fundraiser to re-energize, rebuild the entire fundraising program of the MetroParks.”
Per Shipka’s motion, applications for the position will be vetted by a search committee comprised of the presidents of the YSU, Friends, and park foundations, as well as two park board members and Young.
Also, the board heard from representatives of Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens, the nonprofit organization that supports the MetroParks’ botanical gardens.
Friends board member Janet Yaniglos presented a plan that will bring back a revamped version of the Master Gardener program, a long-running program canceled earlier this year.
The new John & Doris Andrews Horticulture Certificate Program will begin a pilot phase in early 2017. The updated program will feature short-term modules on a variety of topics. Each module will require participants to complete four three-hour sessions and eight volunteer hours in the Gardens.