TOP Trails developer emphasizes cost control
by Jim Smothers
Jan 10, 2014 | 962 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA — In a Friday work session TOP Trails development contractor Kelley Taft covered a wide range of topics crucial to the park’s development and operation, with particular emphasis on the fact that operating expenses far exceed operating revenue.

The park is open for trail riders from Thursdays at 6:30 a.m. through Monday morning at 6:30, plus some holidays, and revenue from operations in 2013 totaled approximately $39,500 while payroll alone at the park topped $170,000. Discussions about cutting expenses included marketing, security, payroll and payroll services and whether a gravel road could serve a proposed campground area as well as a paved road.

Taft also went over preliminary findings in an audit being conducted, the final version of which has been repeatedly delayed since September. Board Chairman Tommy Spears said none of the eight items were unexpected, and changes in procedures going forward should prevent their reoccurrence. One item was that adequate receipts were not always included on grant reimbursement requisitions, a fact that likely stopped grant reimbursement checks from being issued to the park last spring.

Without the grant checks arriving, the board ran out of money for continuing development and did not have enough cash to meet operating expenses. Timber contractor and board member Gary Steed issued an advance to the board against timber cutting to get through the month — a good deed that resulted in another finding on the preliminary audit. Federal guidelines generally do not permit vendors or contractors to advance funds.

A biologist’s report and map were presented, showing that parts of the proposed campground sites are in areas determined to be wetlands. Options about altering the plan and/or paying fees for mitigation were discussed, along with the need to discuss changes with Waites Construction, which was awarded the contract for the project last spring.

Taft said a grant reimbursement request for some $63,000, submitted by previous grant administrator C.D. Roberts and Associates is still incomplete. She told the board ADECA has supporting documentation for some $40,000 of that amount, and she is pursuing corrected documentation for in-kind services to be able to obtain the full amount.

Taft also proposed a series of changes to make the park more appealing to visitors, including trail mapping, trail naming, park and trail signs and the construction of roads and campground.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at the park.

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