City buys school property for parks

Wapakoneta’s mayor says he’s pleased councilors approved purchasing two plots of land to expand the park system, but he also understands the reasons one councilor voted against the deal.
Wapakoneta City Council members voted 5-1 Monday to purchase approximately 10 acres of Wapakoneta City School property where the former Centennial Elementary School was located at a cost not to exceed $90,000. Councilors also voted 5-1 to purchase school ground and two buildings on land east of the Wapakoneta WaterPark for $35,000.
“I believe this is the right thing to do because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase this much land at one time inside the city limits,” Mayor Rodney Metz said after Monday’s council meeting on the $125,000 purchase. “The Centennial School ground is near an existing facility at Veterans Memorial Park so staff can take care of the grounds at both sites.
“With the help from the civic clubs — Wapakoneta Soccer Club and the Breakfast Optimists — it has helped make this
possible,” the mayor said. “This should help the two civic organizations as well as the overall recreational opportunities offered by the city.”
The Wapakoneta Soccer Club has pledged $40,000 over a five-year period ($8,000 per year), while the Wapakoneta Breakfast Optimists have pledged $20,000 over a four-year period ($5,000 per year). The soccer club would like to locate soccer fields on some of the new ground, while the Breakfast Optimists have requested naming rights and the right to purchase playground equipment to be located on a section of ground at the former school site.
Metz also addressed Councilor-at-large Wilbur Wells concerns on purchasing the property. Wells voted against the adoption of the two ordinances Monday and was the lone vote against drafting the legislation when it was discussed in August.
“When you purchase something, whether in your personal life or as a city, you have to do what you have to do to make things work when an opportunity presents itself,” Metz said. “The Wapakoneta City Recreation Board will have to look carefully when making expenditures, and those things they like to do from time to time will have to be limited, but the overall picture is the city will be much better off with the purchase of the property.”
The mayor said one direct benefit will be a handicapped bathroom being available for the gazebo and Harmon Park with the purchase of the land.
Wells, who chairs council’s Finance Committee, maintained his position that he does not feel comfortable with the purchase of the land at this time considering the financial situation of the Parks and Recreation Fund.
“The Recreation Fund is in good shape, but I just don’t feel comfortable using this amount of money for this purchase and placing the fund under this much stress,” Wells told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “Now, the Recreation Fund is locked down for five years with meeting a financial obligation of $65,000.
“I also am uncomfortable with the fact we were only able to purchase this ground if the two service organizations chipped in to buy the land,” the councilor said. “I am glad they did, but it makes me uncomfortable.”
A 1-mill property levy within the city of Wapakoneta raises approximately $100,000 for the parks system. Labor and maintenance of the parks can cost $30,000 to $40,000 per year.
At a meeting in August, 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier contended the purchase of the land now clears up liability and insurance issues since the ground is owned by one government entity.
During that same August meeting, Neumeier explained the city’s obligation of $65,000 was less since the Harmon Park ground purchase was already approved and budgeted, leaving the city with a $30,000 obligation. This is reduced further because $8,000 that was earned in interest was not appropriated during the budget process for 2011 and could be used in the purchase.
Additional interest from the Hauss-Helms Fund totaling $11,000 is to be paid to the Recreation Fund in 2013, which could be used to pay back the Electric Expansion Fund, the fund which would loan the money to finance the project.