Tourism and Softball stand off continues

by Mike Monahan

The Blackwell City Council held a workshop prior to their regularly scheduled meeting on March 18 to discuss tourism and softball issues that ended up with no resolution reached on either item. The tourism board was up first, as Lynne Field and Cindy Oard represented the board.

The discussion lasted almost 90 minutes before Interim Mayor Steve Marquardt shut the discussion down so the council could deal with other issues. Former mayor T.J. Greenfield also took to the podium for the tourism board.

Councilman Jon Webb told the council it is important to get an agreement and not continued with he he said she said routine. Councilman Tom Beliel seemed to draw some concerns from Oard and Field because they send him an email asking for a meeting and he did not meet with them.

Beliel pointed out that the board cannot just keep trying to meet with council members individually when the entire council still must decide the issue. In the process of the discussion, the board told the council that while they did meet on March 16, they took no vote on the proposed contract because they did not like it.

Webb then asked why the board could not operate under the old contract for the remainder of the fiscal year. Beliel suggested that the board meet and come back with a proposal of what they want to see in the contract that the council can work with to be approved. During the discussion, Blackwell City Manager Janet Smith answered multiple questions on the new contract explaining that expectations of the committee were being outlined and upto-date definitions for the services were being outlined. Smith also was asked why the board had to turn in a budget by June 1.

Smith explained that while the annual budget is $42,000 for the tourism board and is allocated through the budget process, the council should see how the board is budgeting the allocation. The last issue of the discussion was that since no agreement was in place the board would not receive their $3,500 a month due to them since January ($10,500) until an agreement is reached and that as of March 15, the account showed $48,000 on hand with no plans as to how those funds were going to be spent. Smith also told the audience and the council that the COVID pandemic caused a lot of disruptions to tourism this past year.

“I am not trying to take anything away from you, lets see what you have and what you are spending it on. The council can approve any future allocations as long as there is a plan as to what it is being spent on,” said Smith. The Blackwell Softball Association was next up for discussion as Afton Diedrich, President, Blackwell Softball Association and Mark Magnus, treasurer, and Paige Tickel, board member represented the organization in the discussion.

The group indicated that they were not happy with the new proposed agreement as they want year round control of the complex and the new proposal was asking them to specify dates that they needed the park. The funding proposal ($500 a month) was less than they wanted but they had no counter offer.

The board also had not met as a group to discuss the contract prior to the council workshop, so a lot of questions were not really resolved. Mayor Marquardt pointed out that at the last meeting they indicated that they did not wany year round control of the complex. Smith was even offering to help maintain the mowing of the fields and the complex and that did seem to be what the group wanted. The board told the council they would bring an agreement back to the council, even though they were reminded it is still a council decision. Both items were on the city council agenda and where tabled later in the evening with no timetable given for resolutions

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