BUCKHANNON – The Stockert Youth & Community Center Board of Directors won’t be dissolved, despite recent discussions of combining it with the city’s newly created Parks and Recreation Board.
Last month, Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner told city council he wanted to consolidate the SYCC Board with the city’s recently formed Parks & Recreation Advisory Board. However, at a recent meeting of the SYCC Board, Skinner reversed course based on new information. He informed the Board that city attorney Tom O’Neill had discovered a court order filed in Upshur County Circuit Court requiring that the youth and community center have its own board of directors.
“I had made a statement that I thought the Parks and Recreation Board could absorb this board because Stockert Youth & Community Center is an indoor park, basically, and I kind of saw that falling in with being managed by the Parks and Recreation side of things,” Skinner said at the SYCC Board’s June 2 meeting. “At first glance, we could do that … but after further review and research, we cannot do that.”
Skinner said while researching the matter, O’Neill found a court order filed in the Upshur County Circuit Court that “that does require a Stockert [Youth & Community Center] Board.”
“This was not on the city’s side of things; it is in the county courthouse,” Skinner said. “It was not authored by Judge [Jacob] Reger, but he is required to enforce it.”
Skinner told SYCC board members that he now envisions the Parks and Recreation Board overseeing just the maintenance and management of Stockert’s new multipurpose gymnasium addition, which they’ve been working to finalize for months. The SYCC board would continue to oversee and guide programming at the center, he said.
“When the building is built and when the building is open, I would like the Parks and Recreation Board to have some oversight over that facility, being that it is a community facility and the Stockert Youth Board would be more for programming inside Stockert,” Skinner said. “But I think the actual facility maintenance and management should be part of the Parks and Recreation Board’s [responsibilities] because the parks that we have now, the facilities and maintenance of those parks is going to fall under the responsibility of the Parks and Recreation Board.”
“I would like to see this board focus on the programming that takes place at Stockert Youth Center itself and facility-wide,” the mayor continued. “I’m not crazy about the idea that we are adding another board and we can’t consolidate because I hate redundancy … but because of the way this is set up, this has to remain a board.”
No one has yet been appointed to the seven-member parks and recreation advisory board, but city officials will likely vote on them after the beginning of the fiscal year, July 1, 2022, when appointments to the city’s boards are routinely made.
Several SYCC board members expressed concerns about Skinner’s intent to combine the two boards, especially relative to the role of longtime SYCC executive director Debora Brockleman.
Skinner assured the 11-member SYCC Board that the new parks and rec board “would not touch the programming of the Stockert Youth & Community Center” and that Brockleman would continue to report directly to city council – not to the parks and rec board.
Board member Pam Martin said she found out about Skinner’s intention to consolidate the two boards on Facebook.
“I think what this boils down to is, this hasn’t been very transparent,” Martin said. “I think maybe something should have been said to us before it became an issue.”
SYCC board member Nancy Shobe asked where the idea of a parks and rec board had originated, and Skinner said it came out of the city’s Planning Commission, which develops long-term plans for the city’s economic and cultural development.
“I thought the Consolidated Public Works Board is the one that took care of the parks and the cemetery and the streets,” Shobe said.
Skinner said the Consolidated board has too much on its plate.
“Well, that’s true, but in all honesty, it’s not working,” he replied. “The parks aren’t getting the care and consideration that I think they deserve. We have too much going on in the city and everything kind of just gets dumped onto Consolidated Public Works, and I want the parks to have a much higher priority focus. The playground equipment is tired, the pavilions are tired – the overall feel in some of our parks is just very tired.”
“So, the Planning Commission came up with this idea and I support it 100 percent, that we prioritize the parks, and basically, the Consolidated Public Works Board is more or less going to become the streets and cemetery board,” Skinner added.
A few board members, including Shobe, Martin and Dr. Tammy Samples said they were concerned about the language in the city ordinance that creates the new parks and rec board. The ordinance says the parks and rec board has authority “to advise on the management of the Stockert Youth & Community Center.”
“I think the title needs to be changed to say, ‘to advise on facilities management’ of SYCC,” Shobe said. “Are we going to change the title in the ordinance?”
Samples said she, too, thought that was necessary.
“I just want it to be spelled out clearly,” Samples said. “You know what your intentions are, but what about future [administrations]?”
Skinner said city council can recommend the ordinance be modified to specify the parks and rec board would only have authority to advise on facilities management and upkeep.
“I will work on that since we’ve discussed it here,” he said. “I think it needs to say the [parks and rec board has] ‘authority to advise on facility management of Stockert Youth & Community Center.”
Even if a city parks and recreation director is eventually hired, that person won’t trump Brockleman, Skinner added.
“I think the point is, we’re trying to look at all of our facilities that have any sort of recreational opportunity from a holistic approach from the entire city – not just, this facility is here on an island, this facility is here on an island, etc.,” the mayor said. “What we do right now is when there’s a problem we go and fix it, but there’s no planning, there’s no forethought as to what do our parks will look like in five or 10 or 15 years down the road. We want the parks and rec board to look at, ‘how do we improve them and not just hold them at status quo where they are?’”
Skinner said no one was trying to dismantle SYCC or its mission.
“No one wants to hurt this facility,” he told the board. “We’re just looking at how we can best go forward with the creation of a Parks and Recreation Board to look at our facilities from a holistic management standpoint so that everything is coordinated. We have no coordination now.”