TOP Trails welcomes new board members
by Jim Smothers
Feb 05, 2014 | 681 views |  0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Two newly named board members attended a TOP Trails board work session Tuesday morning in preparation for beginning their service on the board. Jason Upchurch and Tony Haywood were welcomed to the meeting by the members they will replace, chairman Tommy Spears and Mack Ferguson, and by Joey Cooper who will remain on the board. Board members Travis McGrady and Buster Taylor were not in attendance at the meeting.

Development contractor Kelley Taft of the Kelley Group covered a wide-ranging number of topics during the meeting and she and board members work toward a sustainable management and development plan for the park.

Taft and park manager Wes Pope reported on a meeting they had two weeks ago with ADECA in an effort to clarify details about grant reimbursement requests. Among other things, they learned that board members’ hours in meetings cannot be counted as volunteer in-kind service contributions toward matching funds for grants, and that if equipment acquired through grants is sold, the money must be returned to ADECA—but they can trade it in on other equipment.

Cost-cutting measures are continuing, with the retirement of Richard Naff and the cutting of one other employee. Beginning March 1, that will leave Pope as the only employee at the park. The board still contracts with a security service to man the gate at the park during opening hours, Thursday noon through Sunday at 10 p.m.

The board still has grant awards to draw upon to continue development, and the park will continue to need volunteer hours at the park to use as matching funds in order to get the full amount of the grants awarded. Board members are also waiting to hear whether the park will be awarded any new grants for 2014. An announcement from the governor is expected in the next few days about the new round of grant awards.

A park volunteer assisted with using a GPS device to map the trails at the park. Bart Taft of the Kelley Group plans to upload that information to Google Maps, which should make the park map accessible to anyone with a smart phone. Pope said he is also working with a volunteer committee to name and number the trails for the new maps, and that will be followed in short order by placing signs on the trails to help riders find their way around the park.

Ferguson brought up the final invoice from C.D. Roberts Associates for some $40,000, and pressed for a timetable for a board decision on payment. He noted that it had been tabled pending completion of an audit, which was accepted last month.

Spears said the audit was for 2012, and the Kelley Group is still in the processing of going through figures for 2013. Spears said there is the possibility of chargebacks to Roberts for some of the grant reimbursement work that the Kelley Group is having to resubmit. “And that’s a fact,” he emphasized.

Ferguson challenged the statement, saying, “No that’s not fact, that’s your opinion.”

Spears replied, “It’s also my opinion that the sun came up this morning.”

Kelley Taft said she hoped to complete her review of paperwork related to the grant reimbursement requests in four to six weeks. At that time discussions with Roberts over chargebacks could take place.

Ferguson also asked for the Kelley Group to present an operating budget for 2014, one which would include anticipated funds from future grant reimbursements. Taft was insistent that a budged based on last year’s gate revenue—about $39,500—should be the basis for an operating budget.

Even with the recent cuts, projected expenses will exceed that amount. Strategies to continue development and establish new and increased sources of revenue are critical.

In other discussions:

• Pope said he will have to shift a planned kiddie trail about 30 feet north of where he had previously planned to avoid a wetland area.

• Talladega City Manager Brian Muenger suggested a city contract with the park for grubbing an area between water department fencing and TOP trails property.

• Park patron Leslie Gispanski told members she drove from Elmore County for the 7:30 a.m. meeting because the park is so important to family and friends. She said the park offers a lot of variety for riders, it’s where she learned to ride. She said a campground would be important to her, and a wash station would be an important amenity for riders.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 a.m.