Motion requires public board approval


Legal counsel to review proposal, issue report

By Jordyn Grzelewski

jgrzelewski@vindy.com

CANFIELD

The Mill Creek MetroParks board revisited a tabled motion that would require the executive director to obtain public board approval for major decisions affecting the park, this time granting its approval.

At a meeting at the MetroParks Farm Thursday, the board unanimously voted in favor of the motion first proposed last month by board member Tom Shipka. This time around, it features the caveat that legal counsel will review the proposal and issue a report on it the next month.

Shipka, who joined the board in June, proposed the motion in reaction to Executive Director Aaron Young’s implementation in February of staff cuts that were not publicly approved by the board. Young discussed the internal reorganization with the board, but acted on it unilaterally.

Shipka has been critical of the handling of that situation, earlier telling The Vindicator: “I don’t think it’s a wise policy for a tax-supported organization such as Mill Creek Park to grant virtually unlimited authority to a park manager.”

“While I know there is still fallout in the community about the February decision, I think we’re making progress,” Shipka told the audience at Thursday’s meeting, which again was well attended, as every board meeting since February has been.

Approval of the resolution came after a 90-minute executive session, where the proposal briefly was discussed in the context of a lawsuit the park system is facing. The board inquired as to whether it could move forward with the proposal without opening itself up to further issues related to the lawsuit, which legal counsel reportedly OK’d.

The metroparks board, Young, and several current and former board members are defendants in a lawsuit brought by three area residents, accusing park leaders of violating state open-meetings law in their planning and implementation of the staff restructuring.

Also discussed in executive session was a new contract between the park system and its Fraternal Order of Police union workers, which the board approved.

The three-year agreement grants a 1 percent raise to full-time FOP workers this year; a 1.5 percent raise next year; and a 2 percent raise in 2018.

Park leaders “feel the staff is deserving” of the raises, Young said.

“We have moved forward with a variety of avenues of being a more organized and efficient organization,” he said. “They deserve these modest wage increases for their services.”

In other business, the board approved entering into a lease agreement with Kravitz Deli, which will take over operations of the Garden Cafe at Fellows Riverside Gardens.

The cafe previously was operated by Friends Specialty, but the board moved at its last meeting to terminate its lease agreement with Friends, citing what park officials said was a failure on Friends’ part to abide by the agreement’s terms and conditions.

The preliminary lease agreement is a three-year contract with the option of one-year renewals after that.

Kravitz will pay the metroparks $1,200 in rent per month and 6 percent of its gross sales. Kravitz will have exclusive catering rights.

Owner Jack Kravitz said his team is prepared to open Kravitz at the Garden Cafe as early as next week.

“We’re just really excited. We’ve been working with Aaron on trying to put something together quickly. We’re trying to be a good community advocate and bring people together,” he said.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at the MetroParks Farm. Young is slated to present to the board a detailed plan on capital improvements scheduled to take place over the next five years.

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