New TOP Trails board members attend first meeting
by Jim Smothers
Feb 11, 2014 | 1184 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jason Upchurch and Tony Haywood took their place for the first time with TOP Trails board members Buster Taylor, Travis McGrady and Joey Cooper Tuesday morning at the regular monthly meeting of the board.

Both are trail riders who have already been active volunteers at the park, and were recently appointed by the Talladega City Council to replace Tommy Spears and Mack Ferguson. Upchurch has already become a moderator on the board’s Facebook page, and he and Haywood plan to attend a Cheaha Trail Riders meeting later this week to keep the group abreast of developments at the park.

Spears and Ferguson both attended the meeting to wish the new members well and to offer their support. Appreciation for their service was expressed to them, along with approval for lifetime park passes for them.

Taylor was elected chairman of the board and was authorized to draw up bylaws for the organization, which will enable the board to also elect a vice chairman who can preside in his absence.

The board reviewed recent cost-cutting moves that leave Wes Pope as the only employee at the park. Richard Naff retired, but still plans to volunteer at the park. Jeff Johnson was to be laid off at the end of the month, but found another job and left the park early. A contract with a security service provides guards at the park during opening hours — Thursday morning through Sunday night, plus holidays — and a contract with the Kelley Group for consulting and development services remains in effect.

Pope said weekends remain busy, with 100-150 riders on average. He said Kelley Group now has recently collected GPS mapping data, which will be used to print out maps for a trail naming committee. The Kelley Group has also resubmitted a grant reimbursement request for $63,000, which he expects to be paid within two weeks. Half of the money must be used to pay down the balance on the board’s line of credit with First National Bank, and the board voted to pay off the entire balance — some $42,000 — if enough funds would be left to continue operations.

He reported a security fence around an equipment storage igloo has been finished. He said the park needs an excavator, and said trading in equipment the park previously purchased with grant funds is an option.

The next big project will be installation of a sewage pump which will serve the Environmental Center building and be capable of supporting campground hookups. Pope estimated the total cost at $50,000 or less.

The board accepted a contract proposal from the city of Talladega to have Pope use park grubbing equipment to clear brush from around perimeter fences at the city’s four wastewater treatment plants. City manager Brian Muenger said the work needed to be done, and he saw it as a win-win for the city and the park. The total cost of the project is estimated at $5,000.

Board members discussed having a 2013 audit conducted, and will attempt to get bids and timetables from three firms.

In parting comments, Ferguson expressed appreciation to all the board members and the cities of Lincoln and Talladega for their support, Tommy Spears for his service as chairman, George Montgomery for his service as secretary, Pope for his work at the park and C.D. Roberts Associates for getting two million dollars in grant awards and $450,000 in volunteer hours for park development. He also said he hoped all board members had copies of the park’s Plan of Utilization on which grants were awarded, and reminded board members of unpaid invoices from Roberts.

Spears also expressed appreciation for the opportunity to serve.

The board plans to hold a work session at the park at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 4, and its next board meeting at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 11.