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Parks and Playgrounds determine where to best spend tax dollars

Posted on September 26, 2018

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

The El Dorado Parks and Playgrounds Commission is planning to tour city parks to assess the needs of each park and find ways to best spend tax dollars that have been allotted to improve public recreation spaces.

One of the issues the commission will be considering is the future of the Mattocks Park swimming pool, the city’s only public swimming facility.

During a regular monthly meeting Tuesday, Ken Goudy, chairman of the parks and playgrounds commission, said the group needs to develop an improvement plan — including proposed projects and costs — to tap into the city’s one-cent, economic development tax, known as El Dorado Works.

The tax, which was approved by voters in June 2015 and went into effect four months later, is expected to generate at least $50 million over its 10-year life.

Fifteen percent of El Dorado Works tax revenue is dedicated to community development, which includes parks and recreation.

“We need to figure out the best way to utilize that the best way we can. That’s a lot of money,” Goudy said. Commissioners previously discussed scheduling a time to tour city parks, agreeing to wait until outdoor temperatures cool down.

Goudy suggested that the commission tentatively schedule the tour for its next regular meeting on Oct. 23, saying commissioners could assess the needs and condition of each park.


The city has nine public parks: Mattocks, Mosby, Lions Club (park and municipal golf course), Mellor, Bodenhamer Skate Park, Oakhurst, Neel, Old City and Mitchell.

The walking/running trail that encircles Lions Club, the Union County Fairgrounds and the El Dorado School District soccer is also a city-run recreation spot.

The former McKinney Park on Beech Street was decommissioned in a master parks improvement plan that was drafted for the city in 2008. The city maintains it as green space.

City officials have also had past discussions on how to use the vacant property on which Southside Elementary school formerly sat.

Within the past several years, money from the former El Dorado Forward tax — a onecent, economic development tax that sunset in 2015 after eight years — has been used for park improvements.

The upgrades included a new pro shop and golf cart barn for Lions Club and a $231,000 project to install new equipment — playground units, pavilions, picnic tables, benches, trash receptacles, basketball goals and water fountains with pet attachments — at several city parks.

Now, the parks and playgrounds commission is looking to tap into the El Dorado Works’ allotment for city parks and recreation spaces.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Alexis Alexander said she “would like to contemplate the future of the (Mattocks) pool first.”

Mattocks pool

Commissioners began asking questions about pool operations earlier this year, prior to its Memorial Day opening. The pool closed for the summer on Aug. 11.

Ray Johnson, who recently retired as sanitation supervisor for the city and who oversees operation and management of the pool, reported that attendance was up this year.

In 2017, the daily average number of swimmers was 75, down from 127 in 2016 and more than 100 in 2015.

This year, the average climbed up to 112 per day, Johnson said, adding that the pool drew several new faces that swam alongside annual regulars.

As in 2017, Johnson cited excessive heat as a contributing factor for fewer swimmers during the late morning/early-tomid afternoon hours this year.

Though the heat seemed to drive more people to the pool this year and daily average attendance increased, commissioners said attendance numbers for some days in 2018 were reportedly dismal.

Reviewing the financial statements and bills for the 2018 operation of the pool, Goudy homed in on the $30,065 cost to hire three lifeguards for the summer.

“I think attendance dropped off. There were days when there were half a dozen kids there. It’s hard to justify spending that much for lifeguards,” Goudy said.

Electric bills for the pool totaled $84 for June, July and August.

James Lewis, city parks and green space manager, said the cost is primarily for operating the pumps at the pool and electricity for the pavilion at Mattocks Park.

Lewis noted that the lights that surround the walking track are not on a timer and have to be manually operated.

Goudy and Alexander also inquired about the condition of the pool.

Lewis said city crews drain, repair and clean the pool just before it opens each year.

“There’s water in it right now, and it’s green,” he said.

Goudy and Alexander said there have been discussions about purchasing a cover for the pool when it is not in use.

“The costs are astronomical, so I’m not sure we should spend that kind of money with the condition the pool is in,” Alexander said.

Goudy asked about leaks, and Lewis said there is leakage in the filters, adding that the large filtering system is hardly used because it is in poor shape due to leaks.

“The bottom of the pool has deteriorated. We patch it and patch it, but it just won’t hold. I’m sure there are some leaks out there,” Lewis said.

Alexander also pointed out that in a long-running partnership with the city, LanXess, formerly Great Lakes Chemical, donates the chemicals and other materials that are needed to operate the Mattocks pool each year.

Referring to low attendance numbers for some days during the summer and the overall condition of the decades-old pool, Alexander said, “I don’t see that as a good use of city funds, so if a business spends money on chemicals, I’m sure they could use that money to support other parks as well.”

Best use of tax


Commissioners noted that Mattocks Park as a whole is heavily used, adding that the same holds true for some other city parks, including Neel.

Neel Park is used for youth soccer, baseball and softball practice and games.

Commissioners and city officials have previously noted the large crowds that regularly gather at the park, particularly on the weekends.

“I’ve been getting a lot of requests (for improvements) at Neel Park. It’s utilized a lot on the weekends. They even have food tents over there,” City Clerk Heather McVay said.

Alexander concurred, saying that she lives near Neel.

“I see them and hear them,” she said.

Goudy said the tennis courts need to be resurfaced at Mellor Park. Lewis said the El Dorado School District tennis teams use the courts for practice.

Adding public restrooms to city parks has also been part of past discussions about improvements that are needed in city parks.

“We need to get a list of improvements and costs together and take it to the El Dorado Works Board and the El Dorado City Council,” Goudy said.