Islanders call for special meeting over park district finances

Members of the Vashon Park District board last week declined to attend a mediated forum, as requested in a letter signed by nearly 250 Islanders concerned about the financial state of the park district. The commissioners said they welcomed feedback at their regular meetings, but didn’t feel it was necessary to have mediation with community members.

“We have an open public meeting here every two weeks,” said board chair Bill Ameling after Carol Ireland-McLean read the letter at a board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Ireland-McLean, a former parks commissioner, told the board that she and a few other well-known Islanders hoped to “work together to see how we can improve the fiscal management of the park district, to be perfectly frank.”

At the meeting, which was attended by about two dozen Islanders and was contentious at times, Ameling insisted that the district isn’t in financial trouble. He presented a preliminary 2013 budget that he said made necessary cuts while maintaining popular programs, providing minimal funding to the fields project and restoring the district’s reserves.

“Its a doable thing that the park district will be fine next year,” he said.

Later in the meeting, the board voted not to continue raises that former parks director Jan Milligan gave to three employees last summer. Milligan gave the raises to employees who had taken on added duties after other employees resigned, but mistakenly gave them without proper board approval, said interim director Susan McCabe, who was one of the employees to receive a raise.

At last week’s meeting, board member David Hackett said that because of a recent board decision, the raises would expire unless the board chose to continue them. A motion to continue the raises did not carry, with a split vote of  2-2, which Hackett said meant the raises would expire.

However, McCabe, after the meeting, said she believed it was never stipulated that the raises would expire and she was holding off on rescinding them until the board could take another look at the situation. She added that she didn’t think the raises should be rescinded, as the employees in question are doing the jobs of at least two people each.

“To take the raises away is adding insult to injury,” she said.

Hackett, who voted no on the motion, said he was uncomfortable continuing the raises when the park district was expected to run a deficit of about $18,000 at the end of the year and was carrying over bills into the following year.

Ameling did not return phone calls after the meeting.

Meanwhile, the group of Islanders who spearheaded the effort to hold a mediated forum with the board said they will wait to see the district’ final budget for 2013 before deciding whether to go forward with a community forum.


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