BOWLING GREEN - Bowing to public pressure to expand the size of Wood County's Board of Park Commissioners, the board voted 2-1 yesterday to grow from three to five members effective Jan. 1.
"Diversifying the board may not be the wrong direction to go," Chairman George Thompson said before making the motion to expand. "If we move the board to a number of five and had different ideas - not politically motivated - but different, creative ideas on our board, it might benefit all Wood County citizens."
The idea came up in the months after the park board was criticized for granting double-digit raises to some employees last January. The board quickly rescinded the raises and hired a consultant to take a look at wages in similar-sized park districts and propose a new compensation plan for the Wood County Park District.
Some members of the public said they believed a broader-based board would bring more viewpoints to the table and help avoid the kind of controversy that erupted after the raises were approved.
Wood County Commissioners endorsed the idea, suggesting in a June 10 letter to park commissioners that they look at expanding the board "to help restore the trust of the citizens."
"Expanding the board in this manner will allow for greater citizen participation on the board of park commissioners and provide a significant indication to the citizens of Wood County that you are committed to the best possible future of the Park District," commissioners wrote.
Members of the park board are appointed by Wood County Probate Judge David Woessner.
Park Commissioner Joan Foster voted against the measure yesterday, saying it seemed "like a little overkill."
"When there are only three county commissioners, does the park board need five park commissioners?" she asked.
Ms. Foster suggested that when there are openings on the three-member board that the park district ask for new appointees to be made from different backgrounds or ethnic groups, possibly someone with a business and accounting background.
Park Commissioner Charlotte Scherer said what mattered most to her was that members of the board have a deep interest in the parks.
Chuck Hayden, who is involved with Friends of the Wood County Parks, said expanding to five board members was an idea worth considering.
"To me, it seems like there's a lot of pressure on all of you to agree," he said. "I think it'd be helpful to get different ideas."
Also yesterday, the board approved 3-0 the employee compensation plan drafted by Clemans, Nelson & Associates.
Mr. Thompson had made a motion to approve the plan at last month's meeting, but some members of the public asked that the board wait a month to give the public time to read the report and respond. Mr. Thompson said the board did not receive a single comment from the public, which told him that people are satisfied with the consultant's findings.
Clemans, Nelson concluded that most of the park district employees were compensated adequately but suggested the park board institute minimum and maximum salary ranges for each employee and a method for annually adjusting starting salaries based on cost-of-living increases.
The board also authorized Park Director Neil Munger to spend up to $52,000 on playground equipment for the Bradner Preserve contingent on the park district receiving a 50/50 match grant through GameTime's "For America's Children" grant program. Mr. Munger said the equipment was budgeted for 2010, but he needed to make the purchase now to meet a grant deadline of Nov. 13.
Contact Jennifer Feehan