Time is drawing near for city and county officials to begin 2018 budget talks.
With that in mind, the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex Board is also looking ahead to next year, as well as considering ways to maximize the remainder of the 2017 budget.
Last week, Greg Harrison and Dianne Hammond, board chairman and vice chairman, respectively, asked fellow board members and representatives from the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, who manages the complex, to come up with a priority list for how best to use the remaining funds in the 2017 complex budget.
Harrison presented a budget estimate showing that $8,137.50 will be available for the last five months of the year. He noted that the number was conservative and was based on an average monthly rate of $1,627.50. The maximum amount, based on 12 months, would be $19,530.
The city of El Dorado and Union County use a portion of their annual budgets to cover operating expenses for the complex. The two entities used to share complex expenses pro rata, but the county pulled out of the long-running agreement last year.
The Union County Quorum Court voted to cap the county’s contribution and cover half of the 2017 complex budget. However, the county will no longer be responsible for splitting half of any budget overruns at the complex.
On Sept. 1, Harrison said average monthly spending at the complex comes to $16,608, which is under the budgeted average $18,235 for 2017.
“We need to see what’s a good opportunity to spend the funds on before the end of the year,” Harrison said. “What we can’t do now, we’ll look at in 2018.”
Fencing, topsoil and repairs to the roofs of dugouts were some of the needs that were suggested for use of the 2017 budget.
“We’ve got enough projects going on at the complex that we can use the entire budget. If we maintain (the budget levels) that we have now, we can make it work,” said Steve Harrell, athletic director of the Boys and Girls Club and point person for the management of the complex.
While Harrell agreed that fencing is needed for the two newest fields near the Dumas Pavilion on the south end of the complex, he said irrigation and drainage issues must first be addressed to help improve the older fields that are north of the parking lot.
“The ditch behind Field 1 — if you hit a home run, toward the RV park, you’ve lost a ball,” Harrell said.
“Between the city and county, we’ve got too many Gradalls to go out there and restructure it. I’ll go out there and take a look at it and see what we can do,” said board member Will Crowder, who is also a member of the quorum court.
Board members considered offers by the city to provide red clay that is already in the city’s inventory and used fencing from the Babe Ruth baseball field at South Arkansas Regional Airport at Goodwin Field.
The city decommissioned the field earlier this year.
Board member Phillip Lansdell and other board members expressed concern about the age and condition the fencing that had been around the Babe Ruth field.
Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Frank Hash said the fencing was in good shape.
“There’s some other fencing the city has acquired and some posts. We can see if that’s possibility,” said Hammond, who also serves on the El Dorado City Council.
Lansdell, athletic director for the El Dorado School District, said the school district has some chain link fencing available, noting that it is being stored behind the high school baseball field, which is also on complex property.
He said the fencing had been offered to another local program, “but they never came and picked it up.”
Board members said the roofs of some of the dugouts and smaller gazebos at the complex need attention, noting that much of the damage has been caused by children climbing onto the roofs.
“We need to figure out a way to keep the kids off the roof of the dugouts,” Harrell said.
Added Harrison, “The Schoolboy Rowe dugout is in pretty bad shape.”
Another idea Harrison shared was to acquire clay dirt and stockpile it for use as needed.
“We know we need it, let’s go ahead and get it,” board secretary Avo Vartenian said before making a motion to start the process for purchasing Alabama top soil, which is commonly used for baseball and softball fields.
Harrell said he would research costs after board members advised him to purchase “whatever is needed.”
“I think three truckloads would be excessive,” Harrison said.
Harrell also told board members that a new large lawn mower is needed for the complex.
“We need to start looking at equipment. We have two, but only one of them is running, and that one is starting to give us problems,” Harrell said.
He told board members that he will check to see if the inoperable mower is salvageable.
Ongoing efforts to thin some trees at the complex also cropped up during the discussion.
Board members previously said the thinning would open up additional parking space at the complex.
Hash said the cutting was initially suggested as a maintenance issue, particularly around the Van Hook pavilion near the complex entrance off Champagnolle Road.
“(Robert Edmonds, El Dorado director of public works) and I discussed the trees where the old playground used to be because it’s swampy, and it’s thick, and our guys are spending an inordinate amount of time raking and burning pine straw,” Hash said. “I never said anything about parking.”
Harrell and Crowder said cutting in the area near the old playground would affect only about four or five trees and allow additional parking space, while leaving a few trees for shade.
“Robert Edmonds said we could doze those trees and probably get some loggers to come get them,” Crowder said.
The mayor said a communication tower that was taken down last year south of the Dumas Pavilion could be used for parking space.
Board members said additional parking and a baseball field in the area where the tower once stood are included in a master improvement and expansion plan for the complex.
Harrison asked board members to return in October with priority lists for the complex for the remainder of 2017.
Tia Lyons can be reached at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@ eldoradonews.com.