Park Board Meeting Summaries

Summary of Park Board Meeting—Feb. 10, 2016

Submitted by Barb Partington

Geauga Park District Commissioners Meeting 2/10/16

In attendance – 29 audience members in addition to Park staff

All three commissioners present

Call to Order – Pledge – Approve Minutes

Photo Contest Winner – Deanna Meyer – not present


Open to the Public  (these are summaries of the comments)

Kathy Hanratty – Chardon Twp – She titled her comment” An Open Letter to the GP Board”  full text included here “ This is a new board and possibly a fresh start.

Each of you owe it to yourselves and to the people of Geauga County to truly understand the impact of the decisions you will be asked to  make. Please find within yourselves the courage to LEARN about the parks, their HISTORY, the vision that created these parks and the VALUE to each and every person in Geauga County that they represent. Geauga Parks cover just over 3 1/2 % of Geauga County. People with vision and Foresight created these parks and through their understanding of conservation preserved some of our best places. It is the QUALITY of the places preserved and the EDUCATION on the Natural world provided by an excellent team of Naturalists that has made Geauga Parks a GEM envied by all of Ohio over the last 50 years.Oddly enough also just over 3 1/2% of our park land is COVERED by Roof, Parking, Shelter, Pavement or other BUILT environment. Note the IMPACT of EACH BUILT Space extends far beyond the foot print of each Building, Parking lot, Shelter or Road.  So to say that “only  3% is Developed” is false and designed to mislead.

You may have been told that 97% of the park is Preserved and off limits to people.  That is ANOTHER falsehood.  Only 9.5% of park land is designated preserved and 7.6% of that is within the Pinebrook Preserve which is still in PRIVATE hands until 2019. You may also have heard that BUILDING more stuff and promoting the use of thrill machines is needed to make the parks available to more people. That is another FALSEHOOD.  Our parks have ALWAYS been open to ALL people. That is why the public has overwhelmingly supported the parks in voting FOR park levies. The land protected within our parks helps to keep our water and air clean and benefits every person in Geauga County. 

You may have heard that there is a “Time and a Place for everything” …I know I did when growing up.  Those are good words to consider …not all things are appropriate in every place.  In order to make consistent and unbiased decisions about appropriate uses for our parks, using a set of Common Sense Standards by which park use decisions are made simply makes sense. This gives you a guide as you make decisions about the LEGACY you will leave for our parks. If someone is pushing you to make on the spot decisions…. You may want to wonder WHY?  You have the power, actually the responsibility,  to dig deep, to look at the founding mission of the parks, consider the legacy you will leave by each decision you make.

You have accepted positions of great responsibility, maybe more than you bargained for. Perhaps you were chosen to fill that seat to do the bidding of the judge and his man, Mr. Oros.  That was how it seemed as Mr. Oros lead you through last month’s meeting. At this meeting you will be asked to vote upon a change to the by-laws which will give the executive director an awful lot of power and diminish the power of the board, possibly putting you in a role where you just Rubber stamp whatever he presents.Please ask yourself – about this decision and all subsequent decisions you make: Is that the LEGACY I want to leave in my time on this board?”

  1. Ed Buckles – Troy Twp Talked about snowmobiling saying “it is emblematic of what is wrong with this administration and indicative that things are getting worse” He told board that prior boards had rejected snowmobiling, the local snowmobile clubs have over 90 miles of trails currently available, the recent survey said over 90% of respondents did not want this and the Environ report said Parks raise property values unless there are snowmobiles and noisy activities, which lower values.  He reported that the “special use” permits Mr. Oros referenced were not used – regular permits were used which do not require the user to carry proof of insurance. He reminded the Board that Mr. Oros was hired without competitive interviews and had allowed illegal hunting in a nature preserve, mowed fields where monarch butterflies fed, did not respond to why many trees at West Woods were “tagged” for harvesting by a neighbor, put in (against EPA regulations) and removed expensive equipment at Bass Lake, allowed a leaking motorized boat to remain at Bass Lake “until the season was over” and other EPA violations without answers.  The Shutterbug camera club was thought by Mr., Oros to be “too exclusive” – more than snowmobilers?  Ed talked about the proposed by laws changes that are ceding to him and his “designees” all the Boards authority to monitor anything under bidding limits and then move funds at his whim.  Ed spoke of this being “legal but not wise” He reminded them that Mr. Oros works for them, not the other way around.  He ended with “you can delegate your authority but not your responsibility.  You should check what fiduciary duty means with your person attorney and with Mr. Ondrye the Park’s attorney and erstwhile judicial candidate.  You need to ask yourself “who am I responsible to – the judge, Mr. Oros, the Public, the Parks or the future”
  2. Jill McAllister – Munson Twp – Introduced herself as a consultant and said she knows John Oros professionally.  Said she came to today’s meeting as a resident, talked about her love for the Rocky Mountains, is a tree lover, loves nature, said the west had more opportunities than our area (I think she meant for active recreation) Said pavement does not have an impact on trees.  Said her snowmobile is quiet.  Spoke in favor of snowmobiling in the Geauga Park.
  3. John Augustine – Told Board that previous boards welcomed questions – previous commissioners knew they did not have expertise in all areas and welcomed input.  Recommended more flexibility with public comment. Mrs. Dottore interrupted to say that she thought it was disrespectful for John to indicate she would vote without doing research and homework on an issue (he had not said this).  John spoke about snowmobiles – saying Cleveland Metroparks had them and then eliminated them due to problems, and Lake, Portage and Summit do not allow them in the County Parks and Punderson has reported significant damage to their golf course by snowmobilers. He said he does not expect answers right away when he asks questions but Mr. Oros says “we may or may not get back to you” He recommended the Board “talk to us – we have a lot of expertise in our group” He said Mr. Oros said snowmobiling would not begin until Feb and it began in January and trails are closed even during the week.  He had asked if anyone had ever been ticketed for using snowmobiles when not allowed and no one has gotten back to him.
  4. Kathleen Webb – Munson Twp – Reported on her cordial telephone conversation with Don Hofstetter, Jr, Montville Highlanders Snowmobile Club – they currently have 100 miles of connected trails in Montville, Thompson and Ashtabula. Punderson State Park has a series of established trails ideal for families, including parking.  She asks “will snowmobilers park their vehicles at Obs. Park, then ride through the park on trails or not, to connect to the other 100 miles of trails on private lands? Do you (commissioners) want Obs Park to be a staging and parking area to the exclusion of other Park visitors?  She reminded the Board that at the December meeting representatives of the Montville Club made a presentation and when asked, “will riders stay on the trails” the answer was that they could only vouch for the 2 of them.  The climate of the board did not seem favorable for approval of snowmobiler use at Obs. Park until Jan. when the questioning commissioner was removed and Mrs. Dottore and Mr. Barker were appointed.  The reasonable objections of Mr. Gertz were out voted. She asked the commissioners to read about GPD history . She mentioned the survey and the link on PGP website.  She spoke to snowmobilers being noisy and expensive and said the Montville Club will not have them for rent due to their expense.  She said the better option would be to encourage snowmobilers to join the Montville Highlanders Club and ride with them on their trails on private lands.  She reminded the Commissioners that could call a special meeting to vote on this or any other issue and she urged them to do so. She referenced the fact that the commissioners get nothing in writing to describe their duties and responsibilities as Board members, so our guidelines could be helpful for them and included for them the Common Sense Criteria developed by PGP.

Shelley Chernin – Russell TwpShe asked Mrs. Dottore how she could have ‘done her homework’ about the snowmobile issue before voting at the January meeting since she was new to the Board and the issue was not announced on the agenda.  Dottore said she has followed the issue as a concerned citizen over the past year.”Shelley said she had so many topics she would like to talk about that it would be difficult getting them all in 3 minutes – the pending bylaws change, snowmobiles, deliberate bypassing of the Bd of Commissioners by the Exec. Director to authorize their use, without inclusion in the Board Packet, leaving the public completely out of the decision making process but DID include in the packet the request for approval of the rules changes needed to accommodate the Wall That Heals. She questioned, “Where is the Natural Resource Management Department on the current Park District organization chart?  Does that department no longer exist?”  She said these issues have in common Judge Grendell “the invisible elephant in the room, a presence far more real and far scarier than Bigfoot” She pointed out that he is at the top of the Park organization chart, above the Board, and blow them is the Executive Director. She said is has become clear from all the changes in the Board over the last couple years “the judge’s control over board members is imperfect. Hence, the bylaws change removing powers from the Board and giving them to Mr. Oros” She urged the Board to maintain what control I has over the finances of the organization and reject the bylaws amendments which take away their authority, giving it to Mr. Oros, and more power to the judge.  She spoke directly to Mr. Oros reminding him that she and Kathy Hanratty had a conversation with him last summer at Sunnybrook where he said he had to look out for his family first – She said her heart went out to him, “you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, one of those two things being the judge who is above you on the organization chart and who controls the makeup of the Board that can fire you. Your job is on the line if you don’t do as you’re told. We all know that, but I wanted it on public record.  She reminded him that he had agreed, at their meeting with PGP’s common sense standards for assessing uses of the parks.  She reminded him that he may have agreed with them but didn’t agree to use them, unilaterally deciding to allow snowmobiles at Obs. Prk.  She urged the Board to reject the bylaws amendments today.  She asked “why temporary noncompliance with park rules came before the Board for a vote in relation to the Wall That Heals, but not in relation to allowing snowmobiles in the park? I ask whether this park district still has a Natural Resource Management Dept. at all? And most importantly, I ask whether it isn’t possible for all people in this room to come together and stand up to the bully who runs this park district from the courthouse”

  1. Another speaker – (I did not catch his name or township)  – spoke in favor of snowmobiling at Observatory Park as he has to go to Chautauqua, NY now – wants to useObservatory Park with his 12 year old daughter – said there is misinformation about snowmobiles.

Two others in the audience raised hand for Public Comment but were told it was over.

Unfinished Business – Bylaws Revisions Articles XI and XII  – both passed with all three votes

Article XI now reads:  “All vouchers in payment of bills shall be certified by the Executive Director, Deputy Director or the Executive Directors designee.  Expenditure vouchers and Payroll Vouchers shall be approved and certified to the Geauga County Auditor by the Executive Director, Deputy Director or the Executive Director’s designee and shall be ratified by the Park Board. (previously the Park Board could designate a threshold level upon which approval vouchers could be granted by Exec. Dir. Previously all approvals of emergency/urgent payments could be made only after discussion with board president.

Article XII now reads: No contract, agreement, deed, option or other document or action creating any right or obligation, contractual relationship from, in or to the Park Board shall be executed, given, transferred, assigned, delivered, accepted or received on behalf of the Park board    NEW SECTION ADDS:  “ except with the approval or authorization of the Park board. Unless it has been approved in the annual appropriations, and/or unless it is not covered by the competitive bidding requirements of ORC 307.86.  The Executive Director, Deputy Director designee have authority to execute change orders on existing goods or service of approved annual appropriations and other contracts not covered by the requirement of ORC.307.86 to the extent they do not exceed the budgeted amount approved by the Park Board “

  • New Business

New fund/account approval – this is “a resolution requesting a new fund and accounts be established with the County Auditors office called the 2016 Capital Projects/Land Acquisition Fund.  Resolution 5-16   Passed

Cash Transfers (Capital Project/Land Acquiring) Resolution 7-16 Transferred 2,000,000 from General Fund to Land Improvement Fund per approved budget.  Passed

2016 Large Budgeted Expenditures – includes budgeted expenses in each department

The Rookery Planning – asphalt trail resurfacing including drawings and cost estimates

Budget re-allocation

Commissioners Time – Mr. Oros said that 13 snowmobile permits had been issued so far.  Mrs. Dottore requested the Board look at a few different agenda layouts – said current one is vague, wants to include Approving Agenda on the list at beginning of meeting.  She asked if the Board had to approve who is to be invited into Executive Session – Mr. Ondrey said yes. Mr. Barker had no comments.  Mr. Oros asked Board if 10:00 time would be acceptable – all said yes.  So apparently future meetings will continue at this time.

Executive Session – for purchase of property, personnel matters and pending litigation – returned from Executive Session after an hour with nothing to vote on.

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