School, village discus plans for Botkins Community Park

By Kyle Shaner -

BOTKINS – Plans for paving the park lane and fixing drainage issues on the varsity baseball field – and how to pay for those projects – were the main issues as the Botkins Board of Education and Village Council held a joint meeting Wednesday.

The school board and village try to meet annually, although it had been 18 months since they last met prior to Wednesday, Botkins Local School Superintendent Jeff McPheron said.

The school has paid an annual user fee of approximately $18,500 to the village for its teams’ use of Botkins Community Park, and the two entities used Wednesday’s meeting as an opportunity to discuss plans for the facilities and the associated costs.

“I think everybody in this room can agree that that park, with the support and added funds from both the village and the school, is better now than it was four years ago, five years ago,” Village Council member Lance Symonds said. “And it gets better every single year. But now that some of the low-hanging fruit is starting to be chunked away, we’re getting to these larger projects like the baseball diamond, like the park lane.”

The park has an annual operating budget of $70,000 to $100,000, but both the park lane paving and baseball field drainage projects could add tens of thousands of dollars to the budget, leading school board members including Scott Bayless to express anxiety over the costs.

“I agree with you, Scott,” Symonds said. “I hate the idea of having to spend over $100,000-plus at the park in one year. The unfortunate thing about that is these are both viable projects that unfortunately need done sooner rather than later.”

Council members made the case for financing the larger projects instead of smaller fixes that they said would just mask the issues.

Mayor Steve Woodruff said, for example, $25,000 could be spent on regrading the park lane, but the same issues could surface next year. Paving, while requiring more upfront costs, would last longer and potentially save money in the future, he said.

Similar points were made in reference to the baseball field. Drainage tiles under the field have collapsed and the field isn’t properly graded, which prevents proper drainage.

“If we can’t improve the infrastructure underneath there and the tilings that’s underneath there you’re just always going to continue to have problems with it, we’re going to continue to band-aid it $15,000 here, $20,000 there, $10,000 in brick dust a year,” Symonds said. “Those are band-aids and expenses that maybe can be pulled back a little bit with an infrastructure improvement like this.”

The idea of addressing the baseball field was raised to the village this year because varsity games had to be canceled or relocated several times because of wet conditions.

“There were games that every other school in the county could play, but we couldn’t,” High School Principal Ryan Loy said later in the evening, during a meeting of the Board of Education.

The park lane project has been a priority for the village, however, other paving projects moved ahead of it in urgency when cost-saving measures were discovered in other parts of town by working in concert with Shelby County.

“We are still looking into it, but we’ve got to wait to see what’s going on west of town,” Woodruff said. “That kind of jumped in front of the park lane because it was a time-sensitive issue with the county – we didn’t want to lose that ability to pave at that super discounted rate.”

The village offered suggestions on how it could save money on the park lane project as well. It’s pushing for paving without curb and gutters in one cost-saving measure and is considering working on the lane in phases. The village wants any park lane project to be less than $75,000, which would allow Botkins to avoid paying prevailing wage.

The council asked the school board to consider cost-sharing plans for the projects as the school uses the fields for its teams and is responsible for much of the traffic on the lane.

“Would we like to see cost sharing? Absolutely,” Village Council member Craig Brown said. “We wouldn’t shy away from it, that’s for sure.”

Later in the evening, during the regularly scheduled school board meeting, school officials expressed concern about maintaining the facilities after such a large investment and wondered if enough maintenance had been done in the past.

“Once we agreed to the user fee then the service out there or the maintenance of the facilities didn’t change,” Board of Education President Neil Boerger said. “The important thing is making sure we take care of it going forward.”

During the joint meeting, school board member Anita Uetrecht asked for a more complete breakdown of the money spent at the park.

Additionally, the school and village discussed working cooperatively around the village-owned pool and school-owned basketball court for future maintenance needs. They also talked about options on preventing people from driving the wrong way on the one-way “Dutch” Van Horn Way and the need to extend the park user agreement, which is set to expire at the end of the year.

No action was taken on any of the discussions, but school and village officials all expressed their interest in finding ways to work together on shared facilities at the park.

“I don’t think there’s a question about we support it and we will continue to support it,” Boerger said.

After the joint meeting was adjured, the Board of Education hosted its regularly scheduled meeting.

The school received a request for a 100 percent tax abatement for 15 years by the Botkins Investment Group, LLC. The request was for a Community Reinvestment Area program, which is an economic development tool that provides real property tax exemptions for property owners who renovate existing or construct new buildings.

The school denied the 100 percent abatement but approved a 50 percent abatement as it has with past requests from others.

The board also approved nutrition standards for all foods sold in the school during the 2019-20 school year.

It approved paying Joe Morris in lieu of the district transporting her children to and from Christian Academy in Sidney. The school receives reimbursement from the state for the costs.

The board approved a program service agreement with Midwest Regional Service Center for the 2019-20 school year.

It also approved overnight trips for the cross country team to travel to Eaton on Sept. 13 and 14 and for the cheerleaders to have a lock-in at the school on Nov. 26.

The board also accepted the resignation of elementary school counselor Kirsten Martinez.

The board then went into executive session to discuss the employment of public employees. It ultimately approved the hiring of Kelly Baughman as a full-time aide and Becky Walters and Terri Yinger as part-time aides.

The Botkins Board of Education meets the second Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the school’s media center.

By Kyle Shaner

Reach this writer at or 937-538-4824.

Reach this writer at or 937-538-4824.