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Paynesville Press - December 4, 2002

School, city consider joint recreation board

By Michael Jacobson

School District #741 and the city of Paynesville are considering forming a joint recreation board to accomplish a combined approach for providing recreational facilities: ball fields, tennis courts, parks, etc.

The discussion started because of a request by the school for the city to contribute $15,000 for the maintenance of the school baseball and softball fields, which are used by more than just school teams.

As the city looked at the request during their budgeting process, the legal issue of transferring money from one taxing authority to another was raised, Mayor Jeff Thompson told the school board last week. Thompson also told the school board that the city has been fortunate that the school has provided so many recreational opportunities to the whole community and that he believed the city was responsible to provide recreation.

The idea of a joint board would allow both entities to contribute financially and to provide recreation without duplicating efforts. It also could be budgeted, which would mean more stable funding from the city, and not dependent on what was requested that year, said Thompson, who attended the school board meeting with city administrator Steve Helget, who said a joint recreation board was a fairly new concept.

Not all the legal aspects of such a board are known yet. The school board agreed to have Helget and superintendent Howard Caldwell work with the city attorney to develop a proposal for a joint recreation board, in light of the legal issues in play. This proposal could then be brought to the school board and city council for consideration.

While for legal reasons, the board may need to be autonomous, meaning it, not the city council or school board would have final say on spending for recreation, Caldwell stated his preference for it being an advisory board. Another issue could be ownership of the actual facilities.

Whether or not a joint board is ultimately formed, the school district should benefit from the discussion, according to school board chairman Pat Flanders. In order to form a board, both entities would need to analyze their current expenditures on recreation, and the amount the school district spends might show the city the need the district has for support of recreation.

"Really," he said, "if we take the right attitude, we can't lose."

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