Park Board, Sept. 3, 2015

The baseball league has asked if their healthy bank account could be used to improve fields at West Homewood Park. The board president specifically mentioned drainage problems. (A 2013 photo from the league's Facebook page.)

The park board is poised to start conducting criminal background checks on all personnel in positions of authority. A company will be hired as soon as October, after establishing policies and procedures.

The board discussed and will likely approve hiring a company to run background checks on Park Board employees and volunteers, including coaches, counselors, rec leagues sports board members and other staff coming into contact with minors. Tonight’s discussion focused on how the policy would be implemented; for instance, the soccer and football programs already background their personnel, and the baseball program, which has its own governing board, could be asked to handle and pay for its own backgrounding separately. The board also considered who would decide borderline cases or hear appeals and disputes–the staff, the board or an ad hoc committee.

Using the company Protect Youth Sports as a model, Mr. Holley explained that each background check would cost $15 and return a report only if and when issues are discovered, such as DUIs and misdemeanor drug possession all the way up to serious crimes. The board may want to adopt a policy to waive  offenses that were minor or happened long ago, he said.

The board seemed interested in learning more and adopting a consistent background check policy for all its leagues and programs, possibly at the October meeting.

Among other business, including more denials of Exceptional Foundation activities, the board approved more stringent membership and guest policy rules, to be put in force later this year. Click here to see a poor copy of the proposed offenses that would be screened by a backgrounding firm, and changes to the park board’s membership and guest policies.

Members present:  Chris Meeks, chairman, Michael Murray, Marjorie Trimm, Tyler Vail, Tom Blake, and Becky Morton. Jody Brant arrived late and Paul Smalley, who has been recovering from a car accident since December, arrived midway through the meeting.

Members absent: Keith Stansell; Paula Smalley arrived late. Also absent was council liaison Richard Laws.

Staff present: Berkley Squires, public service superintendent, and Rusty Holley, Rec Center director.

Audience attendance: 1

Director’s Report: Mr. Squires gave a progress report on the park board budget, which is incorporated in the mayor’s budget presented on Monday. He said fuel expenses were reduced and he was waiting to see if two new positions, including an arborist, would be approved in the final budget. The council’s Finance Committee has reviewed the Capital and General Fund parts of the budget. Click here to see the entire mayor’s proposed budget, including the park board’s request.

Carried over until October a decision to hire a criminal backgrounding company for board employees, volunteers, youth leagues, boards, etc. The board liked the idea of implementing background checks, but carried it over for more discussion on the process and decision-making authority. The estimated cost was already included as part of the board’s $5,000 activity expense, according to Mr. Squires. 

Approved stringent wording to the membership and guest policies at the Central and Lee Center facilities: The definition of a “household” as two adults ages 23 and over plus dependent children ages 22 and younger living under the same roof was changed to more clearly define the adults as a member plus a spouse or partner. Mr. Holley said people were using their roommates as household members. The new language will be enforced when members seek renewals.

Also passed was a change to the guest policy, which currently allows any member to have one guest per day in the gym or track, regardless of age, for $5.  The new guest policy requires that guests be either 18 or older, or, if under 18, be signed in by the adult member. There have been problems with non-member teens waiting outside for members to sign them in. The staff considers it a liability to have minors using the facilities with no responsible adult on record. Even if adult members sign in minor guests age 12-17, they must be accompanied by a member at all time, he said. Younger guests must be accompanied by an adult at all times.

Approved the following activities: The Relay for Life benefiting the American Cancer Society was approved for a family event April 22-23 with an expected attendance of 2,000. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation was approved for its eighth annual fundraiser walk for April 30, with 350 expected to attend.

Approved some and denied some Exceptional Foundation activities: The board approved the Exceptional Foundation’s October activity calendar, but denied two additional special events due to parking concerns.

Denied two Excceptional Foundation requests:

The park board denied parking for Kiwanis Club of Homewood/Mountain Brook’s Pancake Breakfast fundraiser at the Exceptional Foundation on Saturday, Feb. 13, from 6 a.m.-noon. Board members said the morning hours in February have specifically been set aside for basketball. The board voted to deny the date and location as requested but offered the Senior Center as a free alternative if a better date couldn’t be found.

This event, to benefit the Exceptional Foundation, was prematurely publicized without consent of the park board. The group has asked for a late April date, which the board also denied tonight, citing parking conflicts.

This event benefitting the Exceptional Foundation was publicized in Augusts without prior consent from the park board. The ballroom dance group has agreed to reschedule, asking for a date in late April, which the board also denied, citing parking conflicts.

The Dance Marathon organization, which last month got in trouble with the park board for setting a Jan. 8, 9, & 10 date for its Exceptional Foundation fundraiser without board approval, will be asked to change its requested date in April as well. The Dance group is asking to host the fundraiser on April 22, 23, & 24 at the Exceptional Foundation. For parking purposes, the board said it prefers a late March or early April 2016 date instead.

Mr. Meeks said he was encouraged that the group is trying to work with the park board to reschedule its event.

The Exceptional Foundation and park board have been at odds over limited shared parking since both facilities expanded. Ill will has played out over a shared parking agreement, written and submitted over the past months by the board, but not yet signed by the Foundation. Mr. Meeks said he expected the Foundation to sign the agreement by the October meeting, which will mark one year since the negotiations began.

The meeting adjourned at about 6:45 p.m.


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