Park plan protected

Two Wapakoneta City Council members adamantly object to spending the remaining Hauss-Helms funds for city park improvements, while the mayor does not want to have a closed mind about leveraging a portion the approximately $700,000 in reserve for the city’s park district.

Wapakoneta 1st Ward Councilor Jim Neumeier, who chairs the Parks and Recreation Committee, said Monday he can think of no circumstances now or in the future where he could justify spending the remaining money the city gained from the sale of Telephone Service Co. stock which generated annual revenue for the Hauss-Helms Fund with the city.

“The best place for that money is just where city council put it and hopefully down the road somewhere we will start to get some decent interest out of it,” Neumeier told the Wapakoneta Daily News. “We are expected to realize about $13,000 this year which will go directly into the Rec Fund.”

The city realized $2.1 million from the sale of TSC stock held in the Hauss-Helms Fund. In the first year, city leaders approved spending $1.4 million on the Wapakoneta WaterPark with the remaining $700,000 to be placed in an interest-bearing account with revenue to help fund the Wapakoneta Parks and Recreation Fund.

“It was the intent of council when we got that money that that was what we were going to do with it — to put that money away for the sole purpose of generating funds for recreation programs in the city and I want to honor that,” Neumeier said. “I know it is not much now, but hopefully down the road it will generate more.

“Once you spend it then it is gone and it is gone forever,” he said on the night the Finance Committee chair reported on Recreation Director Jack Hayzlett presenting of their budget at a committee meeting on Nov. 13. “At the very least it is going to generate $6,000 or $7,000 a year.”

At the Nov. 13 Finance Committee meeting, Hayzlett presented budgets for the Recreation Department with $100,000 spent on the parks including $30,000 on purchase of Centennial Elementary School property. He also presented a budget for the Wapakoneta WaterPark, which earned approximately $42,000 this summer.

When the Hauss-Helms Fund contained the TSC stock, the dividends would generate between $40,000 and $50,000 each year for the Parks and Recreation Department. After the Wapakoneta WaterPark was built and the remaining money set aside, interest rates plunged and the fund generated a fraction of that amount, even generating less than $1,000 for one year.

Neumeier said local residents need to understand the Hauss-Helms Fund supplemented the city’s Recreation Department for years and council’s intention “should be to keep that going for as long as possible.” A move he would fight to continue.

Wapakoneta 2nd Ward Councilor Dan Lee said he would prefer to keep the money in an interest-bearing account and hope for better times to render higher interest than to be pushed by the public into spend the money on a project.

“When you spend that money, it is gone and you are never going to get that money back,” Lee said. “That was a once-in-a-lifetime, or should I say once-in-the-existence of the city gift.”

Wapakoneta 3rd Ward Councilor Bonnie Wurst said she would not be in favor of ever spending the money to only make a parks improvement. She would rather see the money used to generate interest and serve as a revenue stream for the Parks and Recreation Department.

“The only time I could see spending any of that money if there is some major disaster at the parks or at the water park, but at this point in time there is no plan and I can see no reason to use that money for improvements,” Wurst said.

Mayor Rodney Metz said he would prefer to hold the money and let it earn interest.

“At this point in time, I think the best idea is to save it because we don’t know if something major is going to happen at one of the park facilities or an opportunity to expand the park facility,” Metz said. “If the right project and the right deal presented itself we might want to consider it — especially if it meant we could build the fund.”

He explained he could see taking a small portion of the fund and leveraging state or federal dollars at four times or more of the amount the city would need to invest.

The money and the interest cannot be spent by any other city department but the Parks and Recreation Department, and the money can only be spent on city recreational programming or capital projects.