First, the park board* decided not ro renew an operating agreement with the Springfield Skatepark Association. That contract ran out October 31, 2007, according to a City of Springfield news release, leaving one to conclude that the operating agreement the park board "elected not to sign," was an agreement all parties had been satisfied with for at least one year.
Now, again, according to the City's news release, the public is informed that "the Springfield Skatepark Association has elected not to sign a new operating agreement for the Skatepark facility."
The Park Board proposed changes to the original agreement in 2006, when the Park Board and the Skatepark Association began meeting "to try to work out a new agreement in anticipation of the contract expiring on Oct. 31, 2007."
In the meantime, the City's news release reminds us that, "In late 2007, the Springfield R-12 Board of Education offered to donate the property on which the majority of the Skatepark facility is located at 945 W. Meadowmere St. to the City."
It was recommended the City Council approve acceptance of the donated property. When City Council approved it, the donation, the news release reports, "eliminated the need for a lease agreement between the Park Board and the R-12 Board, which streamlined the ownership process."
"After receiving the donation offer, a third mediation session was scheduled in January 2008 based on these new circumstances and as an opportunity to possibly resolve this matter with the Skatepark Association."
It seems, to me, those "new circumstances" could have had the effect of taking all leverage away from the Springfield Skatepark Association and putting all the leveraging weight at the end of the Park Board's citizen-approved-1/4-cent-sales-tax-sponsored-teeter-totter. Not such a good position from which the Springfield Skatepark Association was forced to negotiate.
But, the Park Board and the City Council attended the third mediation session in January 2008, "to demonstrate their commitment to resolving the matter, to attempt to keep the Association involved in operating the facility, and to avoid unnecessary litigation."
As long as the Park Board and the City Council attended the mediation session, "to demonstrate their commitment to resolving the matter, to attempt to keep the Association involved in operating the facility, and to avoid unnecessary litigation," what can any disgruntled, dissatisfied, Skate Park Association Board member or supporter say?
The Park Board attempted, they really attempted, to negotiate a new and improved agreement with the Springfield Skatepark Association and that Springfield Skatepark Association, "has elected not to sign a new operating agreement for the Skatepark facility," you know, that agreement based on those new circumstances?
According to this News-Leader story, Springfield Skatepark Association President Annette Weatherman said, "In those mediations, they never conceded one thing to us," she said. "They didn't want to work with us. They just simply wanted to take the skate park."
The city's news release touted all the money taxpayers have spent on the Skatepark as the Parks Department used "voter-approved Parks and Recreation Sales Tax," but didn't bother to outline the expenditures of the Skatepark Association, only noting the Springfield Skatepark Association, "showed a loss of $9,371 for 2002; and a loss of $8,176 for 2003," and then, the news release further noted, "the Springfield Skatepark Association could not or has not provided IRS forms for 2004-2007."
I'd have to verify it, but I believe, unless a business shows a profit, they aren't required to file IRS forms, so just file that away in your take it with a grain of salt file, meaning, since I haven't verified it, you should verify it, yourself, before accepting it as fact.
Now, "The Park Board and City regret that no resolution has been reached with the Skatepark Association and that the Board has been left with no choice except to take legal action to regain possession of the facility in order to address park policy, safety and liability concerns."
Again, from the News-Leader story, Public Information Director Louise Whall was reported to have said, "the city and the park board worked hard to reach an agreement with the Skatepark Association," adding, "The most important thing we want to stress is that we don't want to close the skate park," she said. "We want to make it a great experience for the people who are currently using it and bring more people into the facility."
The most important thing to stress to whom, Louise?
There are, certainly, some things that trouble me about the way this news was reported, by the city's public information office, to have failed due to the Springfield Skatepark Association's election not to sign a new operating agreement. The city might even have good reason to take over Skatepark operations, but since all parties "signed confidentiality agreements regarding the actual mediation," the public isn't likely to receive answers to questions regarding this matter.
Springfield Skatepark Association members, employees and/or volunteers of the Springfield Skatepark have no reason for dismay, however, there is a silver lining. Anyone working there now can always apply for a job working at and for the Park Department's new operation. All applicants will be "considered."
You know, it isn't my intention to question everything the city/city-county park's department does as suspect, (well, yeah it is, but only because they seem to set it up that way, leaving more questions than answers in many cases, and that isn't my fault). I just really think it's important to consider both sides of the story. In this case, we really can't. If the Springfield Skatepark Association shares their side of the story, they'll be breaking a confidentiality agreement they signed. We don't even know the circumstances of that signing, was it a condition of the negotiations? It's doubtful the Skatepark Association could even tell us that, because, if it was a condition of the negotiations, then the circumstances under which it was signed by the parties also falls under the confidentiality agreement. All I can say is, if the city of Springfield wants to be perceived by the public as being open and transparent, this isn't the way to accomplish that goal.
If you'd like to read the city's news release in its entirety, Community Free Press has made it available on their website, where you can read all the City's news releases, any time, by clicking on their City of Springfield link.
Jim Lee of busplunge also has it posted at his blog, "Park Board / Skatepark Association At Impasse: Sk8rs Run Risk Of Losing Say In Operation," where he weighs in with his opinion.
Also, be sure to read the News-Leader story, as linked above. The Springfield Skatepark Association doesn't appear to be taking this news lying down. There's more on that at in the News-Leader story.
*All emphasis mine