What has become an almost annual rumor that Shaffer Park is going to be closed or change its focus or operation has again been making the rounds, and once again Hillsboro city officials say there is no basis for the speculation.
“I hope Shaffer Park’s not closing, because I’ve already signed up to coach a Little League team out there next year,” said Safety and Service Director Todd Wilkin on Friday.
He said he does not understand how the rumors spring up every so often. “There are no plans to change anything at Shaffer Park, except to help make improvements when we can.”
In fact, Wilkin said the budget he plans to submit to city council next month for 2016 will include improvements to all the city parks, including previously announced upgrades for the Railroad Street park consisting of picnic tables, benches, stenciling and lights, another fish derby at Harmony Lake at Liberty Park, working with the Select baseball team at Liberty to create batting cages, and engaging with a contractor to do better trash control at Liberty
At Shaffer Park, Wilkin noted that the city recently installed new chain link fencing around the park. He said he plans to follow through on plans he has discussed with longtime park manager Bruce Davis about rebuilding the foul poles on all baseball fields, and making improvements to all the fencing at Shaffer.
There have been some differences in understanding over Shaffer Park equipment between Davis and city officials. Davis, park manager for the last 27 years, said Friday that he recently took a rundown park mower to a local equipment dealer and was told it would take $3,800 to repair it.
Instead he decided to trade it with the dealer for future service. But when Davis turned in the required disposal sheet to the city, he said city officials said the mower was city equipment and Davis did not have the authority to trade it.
Davis said the mower was purchased with money collected into the Little League fund, even though it is listed as city inventory for insurance purposes. Davis said that even if ownership of the mower was a “gray area,” instead of being able to take advantage of a credit for the mower, the park would now have to use its own funding to have repairs made.
But Wilkin produced an invoice Friday that he said shows the city, not the association, bought the mower in 2008 for $7,519. He said that a repairman at the equipment dealer where Davis had taken the mower told the city that all it needed was a hydraulic pump.
Wilkin said the dealer was only willing to give a credit of about $800 for the mower – Davis quoted the figure at $974 – when it has a resell value of about $4,300. Wilkin said the mower is being put back into service next year for mowing at the city parks.
Wilkin said he and Davis had agreed at one time that the only piece of equipment that belongs to the park association, and not the city, is a Kubota tractor with a front end loader.
But despite their disagreements over ownership of equipment, Wilkin offered a vote of confidence for Davis.
“We’re very thankful for the service Bruce has put in this year, last year, the year before, and the 25 years before that,” said Wilkin.
“We’re thankful that the park is utilized by the youth of Highland County,” said Wilkin. “It’s an asset to the development of our future generations. But we as a city have the responsibility to oversee our parks system. Just as with our other parks like Liberty and Railroad Street, it’s the same with Shaffer. We have a responsibility to manage how they are utilized, now and in the future.”
He said Davis will continue to be manager of Shaffer Park “for as long as he wants to do it.” But he said all agreements with city parks are year-to-year. He said the pee-wee football program, the Hillsboro youth soccer program and the Hillsboro Select baseball program all have one-year leases with the city for use of the parks, and the same is true for the Shaffer Park Association, which pays a nominal fee of $1 per year to use Shaffer Park.
Davis, who said he has also heard the latest rumors about Shaffer Park, said later he was glad to hear Wilkin affirm the park’s value and the show of support for his management. He said the differences over the ownership of equipment could be an honest misunderstanding. And he said Wilkin has indeed signed up to coach at Shaffer Park next year.
“I can confirm that,” he said.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.