A pine tree was planted at McKinley Park in honor of the late Bill Baldwin. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
A pine tree was planted at McKinley Park in honor of the late Bill Baldwin. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Before the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Board discussed buildings, budgets and reopening plans, Parks Superintendent Larry Plummer honored late Park Board member Bill Baldwin.

A vase of flowers had been placed at Baldwin’s seat. He died May 26 at the age of 83.

“Bill served the Park Department for about 20 years, and he also was the Park representative on the Plan Commission since September of 2017,” Plummer said. “Bill served on the Park Board diligently and volunteered yearly to help with programs and events. He was very passionate about our parks, the future of them. His passion to ensure parks continue to improve the communities that they served can be found in how highly he spoke about the parks and what they offered, as well as the equity he paid during the meetings. He will be dearly missed by family and friends along with the community as a whole.”

Plummer said Bill’s wife, Gretchen, donated a tree to be planted in remembrance of Bill. That little pine tree has been planted in McKinley Park.

“We’d like to send our sincere condolences to Bill’s family at this time and thank him for his service to the community,” Plummer concluded.

Board President Steve Haines said, “Bill is going to be a hard man to replace, not just on the Park Board, but anywhere he served. He was a good man.”

After approval of the February meeting minutes, as that was the last time the Park Board met because of the COVID-19 shutdown, Plummer updated the board on the construction plans for the new maintenance building and Central Park Pavilion.

“We had talked about doing the maintenance facility at Fort Wayne and Indiana streets, and the park offices would be above the Pavilion. Since we’ve got into the drawings and drafts of these, the maintenance facility drawings, they’re close to being completed, but we have made a change and incorporated the park offices into the maintenance garage, so they will be down Indiana Street,” Plummer said.

With the change in the Pavilion design, it won’t have to be extended 15 feet out into the water and a second floor won’t be necessary.

“This allows us to renovate and redesign the interior and exterior of the building still. It’s much needed. It allows us to open up the building more so we get a better lake view,” Plummer said.

He listed the reasons for the change as the offices will be more accommodating to the public and the offices will be closer to the maintenance staff.

“Right now we’re so disconnected from the maintenance staff where we’re at, at Lucerne Park, we just can’t wait until the day that we can get back together and then be close and be a close-knit family again and our communication level will be much greater with the maintenance department,” Plummer said.

By combining the two projects, he said they will save between $700,000 to $800,000. He said he will have the drawing plans for the maintenance garage with the offices incorporated at the Park Board’s next meeting.

The two Park budgets were then presented by Plummer to the board.

The Parks non-reverting fund is budgeted for 2021 at a total of $18,350, the same as 2020. The funding for the fund comes from fees collected through programs and goes back into the fund for more programs. It was unanimously approved by the board.

The larger budget, the Parks operating budget, includes a 1% increase in employees’ salaries under personal services that Plummer said he was instructed to put in there. It also includes a 15% increase for insurance, as instructed, as well as the corresponding increases for PERF and FICA. The total for personal services is $623,900 for 2021, a 3.25% increase over 2020.

There is no increase in other personal services, supplies, operating supplies, communication and transportation, printing and advertising, insurance, utility services, rentals, other services and charges, machinery and equipment and other supplies.

Under repair and maintenance supplies, there is a 10% increase from $107,000 to $118,400. Plummer said part of that is due to $20,000 for replacement of park name signs, “This is something we’d like to do.” Another expense is replacement of an office printer for $8,200.

Professional services has a total decrease of 57% to $92,400 for 2021. There’s also a decrease of 49% under repairs and maintenance to $84,300.

While capital outlays doesn’t have any percent increase for 2021 over 2020, there is $5,000 budgeted for the Parks to have its own cement mixer, $18,500 budgeted to upgrade a Bobcat to a Bobcat with tracks and $50,000 for playground replacement at Beyer Park as part of the five-year master plan.

The total proposed 2021 budget, Plummer said, is $2,605,050, a 4.5% decrease over the 2020 budget.

The Board also unanimously approved that budget.

Plummer then discussed the various reopenings throughout the city parks.

He said the park offices are open to the public, with face masks recommended. The parks and greenways have been open with social distancing in place. The beaches, basketball courts and playgrounds opened last weekend. There will be no lifeguards so it’s swim at your own risk. Tennis and pickleball courts are open, with social distancing required.

Campgrounds are operating with a few spots open for rental. Shelter rental is available now at 50% capacity, with 20 to 25 people per shelter. Rental buildings and facilities will begin July 4 with reduced capacity.

Disc golf has been open at Lucerne Park, and Hire Park BMX is open for practice and local races with restrictions.

As for Young Tiger Football at Fribley Field, Plummer said practice is scheduled to begin Aug. 17, with in-house game play on Sept. 12.

“They worked with the IHSAA, the Indiana Football Coaches Association, the Indiana Football League for guidelines to follow,” he said. It’s all subject to the COVID-19 figures.

The first of six summer concerts is July 10 at Central Park. The big country, rock and blues concerts are cancelled for this year.

Mantis Skate Park is scheduled to open July 6 and participants must bring their own helmet to participate.

Recreation Director Sheila Wieringa talked about park programming, which is mostly virtual.

There will be a family carnival, but the focus of it will be the Big Wheel Race. There will be three movie nights this summer, with one at the family carnival.

The last report came from Maintenance Director Shaun Gardner, who described the work completed during the coronavirus shutdown and since his full staff returned to work.

Finally, Plummer reported he asked Board member Michelle Boxell to serve as the Park representative on the Plan Commission and she accepted.

Plummer also said the Park Department received a $3,000 grant from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation from an anonymous donor. The donation was to recognize the Park staff for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic and help with placing the sculpture at city hall. The donor wanted the Park to use the funds however they saw fit, and Plummer said he and Gardner decided to replant some trees with the grant money.