Council action creates Putnam County Park Board
With an eye toward managing People Pathways and getting state funding for the county, the Putnam County Council formally created a county park board on Tuesday evening.
A matter of discussion in recent months, the creation of the Putnam County Park Board involved a number of factors, but Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Eric Freeman cited two in particular.
“Topping the list of what made me pursue this is People Pathways is in the process of being given over to the county,” Freeman said. “It strikes me as it would be a lot better for the Commissioners to have a citizen park board that manages it.
“The second is that Putnam County is not eligible right now for grants from the DNR because it doesn’t have a park board with a five-year master plan,” he added.
While management of the 18 miles of People Pathways in Putnam County was formerly up to the People Pathways board, in January, the county took over ownership, while the CVB took over management.
While going through this process, though, organizers learned of the need for a county park board to qualify for DNR funding, which pushed the issue closer to adoption.
Freeman also emphasized to the council that, while this does technically create a new county board and department, it shouldn’t mean any new expenses for the county, with the CVB, Friends of the Park and People Pathways all providing an existing support structure.
“This is about a 24-person team within those organizations that know those pathways,” Freeman said.
For the council, the discussion leading up to the vote had little to do with whether the county needs a park board, but rather what it would mean financially.
Council President Dave Fuhrman questioned why the Council — the county’s fiscal body — rather than the Commissioners — the county’s executive and legislative body — was tasked with creating it if there are no fiscal questions involved.
No one offered a satisfactory answer, other than the fact that state law, which often isn’t exactly straightforward, requires a county council to create such a board.
“I think we’re missing opportunities in terms of money, so I make the motion,” Councilman Phil Gick said.
Gick was joined in a 6-0 vote by fellow members Stephanie Campbell, Jay Alcorn, Keith Berry, Larry Parker and Danny Wallace.
As president, Fuhrman did not vote, as is normally his custom.
The council also named the first two members of the board, appointing Roachdale Town Council President Holly Cook to a term expiring in January 2026 and People Pathways Board President Allison Leer to a term expiring in January 2024.
Three more appointments still need to be made, one by the Putnam County Commissioners and two by Circuit Court Judge Matt Headley.
In other business, the Council approved the continuation of two tax abatements for industries in the county.
Spear Corp. in the Roachdale area has two ongoing abatements, both for real estate, from 2014 and 2016.
Meanwhile Scorpion Protective Coatings, Cloverdale, has two abatements dating to 2014, one for real property and one for personal property (equipment).
The number of requests is down from last year, as Buzzi Unicem’s abatement expired and North American Limestone Co./Midwest Calcium Carbonates did not request a continuation.
Additionally, POET Biorefining also did not request a renewal after the Council denied its request last year. The denial came on the heels of POET’s late 2019 announcement that it would idle operations at its Cloverdale facility.
Clary noted the job numbers at both facilities, with Spear four behind its creation numbers, while Scorpion is eight behind.
Fuhrman noted the Scorpion job creation numbers in particular, noting that the company has not met its numbers for the duration of the abatement.
“They would love to get to their numbers, but they just can’t find qualified people,” Greencastle/Putnam County Development Center Director Kristin Clary said.
Spear’s request passed by a 6-0 vote, while Scorpion passed 6-1, with Fuhrman dissenting.
“Nothing against Scorpion, but they’ve never made their numbers, ever,” he said.
Asked by the Council, Clary said she did not know of any new industry coming to the county, but she knew of one company looking to expand, which would likely mean an application for abatement.