TOP Trails board approves cost-cutting moves
by Jim Smothers
Jan 14, 2014 | 1119 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA - TOP Trails board members approved a series a cost-cutting moves and tentatively agreed to cancel a contract for a paved road for a campground in Tuesday morning’s meeting.

The meeting came four days after a work session with development contractor Kelley Taft of the Kelley Group, who recommended the moves as a step toward becoming sustainable. The board also agreed to accept an audit report for 2012.

The contract for the roads, which were to serve an RV campground with hookups for about 40 sites and the park’s office and shower building, was awarded last spring. While the contract was awarded to Waites Contruction, the board never approved a start date because anticipated grant revenue was delayed. There was some uncertainty Tuesday over whether the company had paid for bonds for the project. The Kelley Group recommended using gravel to build the access roads instead of asphalt, especially since adding the campground hookups later will require digging into the roads. Gravel will also cost less, which will leave more options for using grant money for other development activities at the park.

Board members learned recently that work on the roads and campground can’t begin without approval from the Army Corps of Engineers. Part of the land for the projects has been found to meet the federal definition for wetlands, and the board must pay mitigation fees to the Corps and get approval before continuing development in the planned area. The board authorized payment of $4,800 to the Corps for mitigation.

With revenue outstripping costs at the park, the board acted on several recommendations to cut costs, including terminating contracts and cutting personnel. Partners by Design, a multi-media marketing firm, is to be released, saving about $10,000 annually, and SK Services, a personnel staffing company is also to be given notice of cancellation, which should save the park about $30,000 annually, including a lower rate found on workmen’s compensation insurance for the park’s employees. Board member Mack Ferguson emphasized the board’s appreciation for the quality of work performed by the two companies.

The park is also reducing staff from four employees to three. Wes Pope said a grubber, one of the park’s two maintenance and grounds workers, has been notified of a furlough. Pope said he and Richard Naff are also reviewing Naff’s duties with the likelihood of reducing his hours or cutting his position.

Park hours are being adjusted to provide additional savings on security costs. The park is to be open from 6:30 a.m. Thursday through 10 p.m. Sunday, which will eliminate Sunday night camping.

A spending freeze was also put into effect, with Pope and the Kelley Group responsible for evaluating purchases.

The board approved accepting a low bid of $4,570 for putting a fence around a maintenance igloo to help secure equipment purchased by the state to fulfill a state requirement.

Pope told the board that timber contractor and former board member Gary Steed has agreed to bring equipment back to the park to collect into piles some of the debris left from timber cutting to enable burning.

In a discussion of invoices received from former development contractor C.D. Roberts and Associates, board chairman Tommy Spears suggested the board charge back some of the work that Roberts had already been paid for. An example mentioned is a pending grant reimbursement request for $63,000, submitted by Roberts. ADECA approved some $41,000 of that amount, but rejected the remainder because of inadequate documentation. The Kelley Group is seeking to compile the needed documentation to get the full amount of the request for the park.

Ferguson asked Talladega city manager Brian Muenger, in attendance at the meeting, when the City Council could be expected to make appointments for his and Spears’ seats on the board. Their terms would have expired in August, but the council postponed making the appointments until a review of the just-completed audit. Muenger said the appointments would probably be made in February.

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