Barnett was at the meeting, and he and Pope told the board about plans for a special event planned for Sept. 21, a family fun day, which they hope will bring a lot of new people out to the park. A barbecue cookoff is planned among a number of professional cooks from the area, Wes Patterson plans to give an archery demonstration, an ATV poker run is to be held, music is planned and Blue Bell ice cream will be available.
The board also set a new schedule for the park. Beginning next week, the park will be open Thursday-Sunday for a $5 per day fee per rider. Plans also call for the park to be open on holidays.
Concerns over finances remain, as the board continues to wait on grant reimbursement checks from ADECA. A check for $253,000 is expected any day. Meanwhile the board has about $9,000 in the bank, $10,000 in current bills and owes $279,000 on a line of credit. More than $500,000 in total grant reimbursement requests have been filed with ADECA.
At last week’s called meeting, in which the board accepted Roberts Associates’ proposal to terminate its contract with the board, a discussion involving board members and audience members over a statement by Leah Reddick about administrative expenses listed on grant reimbursement requests ensued. While 5 percent is the normal amount allowed for grant administrative expenses, Reddick said her firm had been instructed to include certain other expenses in the administrative category on reimbursement forms, and that ADECA had approved those expenses on several previous occasions.
Chuck Roberts sent a letter and supporting documentation to interim park director Wes Pope dated, Aug. 12,“to clear up some of the confusion surrounding recent statements by Maureen Neighbors of ADECA and others in regard to the amount budgeted under the ‘admin’ category…” in a grant request not fully reimbursed by ADECA.
An addendum to the budget for one of the park’s grants was attached to the letter, along with copies of emails to and from the grant writer, Danny Hubbard, board members and personnel at ADECA. The addendum lists charges of $125,000 for administration out of a total request for $351,250. A note explained that most of the administrative charges related to project management and coordination of the initial development of the park (in addition to grant administration), and there was no category available to separate those costs from grant administration costs, so they were included in the administration category.
The attached emails appear to show that ADECA’s State Trails Coordinator Rob Grant reviewed and approved the addendum
Roberts’ letter states, “At no time in this process as C.D. Roberts Associates, Inc operated under a grant budget that was not approved by ADECA. It appears that Ms. Neighbors was unaware of these approved budget amounts…Therefore we anticipate being able to resubmit the returned reimbursement request and further that the full amount requested will be approved.”
Board member Mack Ferguson said Roberts would be allowed to have direct contact with the board Aug. 15, and expects him to speak to the board at the next meeting, Sept. 10, to further clarify matters. Ferguson said he also has a list of unresolved items he wants to bring to the board’s attention at the next meeting.
Board member Buster Taylor reported to the board on a meeting he and Spears had with officers of the Cheaha Trail Riders, and expressed concerns they had about the cutting of timber, having multiple trail loops and the possibility of developing horse-riding trails in the park. Taylor said it was important not only to hear the concerns of trail riders, but to also act on concerns.
Pope was authorized to work out an agreement with insured pulpwooders to remove the remains of downed timber to sell for firewood to help with the cleanup, and Spears and Steed plan to meet with contract forester Jimmy Greer about changing the specifications for timber thinning to preserve more of the forest. Pope also plans to consult with a local horse owner who has expressed interest in the project on trail development.
Ferguson, Spears and Gary Steed are all nearing the end of their three-year terms on the board, and are bound to continue serving until they are replaced. Ferguson has stated publicly he is not seeking reappointment to the board. The city councils of Lincoln and Talladega will be responsible for appointing board members for the other two positions. Spears and Steed are eligible to reapply.
Contact Jim Smothers at firstname.lastname@example.org