Westfield City Council rejects creation of parks department, board


A proposal to create a parks department and board in Westfield has been rejected by city leaders in a split vote after questions were raised about budget issues. 

The Westfield City Council voted 4-3 June 26 against an ordinance that would have created a parks department and board in the city. City Councilmembers Mike Johns, Scott Frei, Troy Patton and Joe Edwards voted against the ordinance, while council members Jake Gilbert, Scott Willis and Cindy Spoljaric all voted in favor. 

The proposal was initially presented to the council in May by Westfield Parks and Recreation Superintendent Chris McConnell, although no action was taken on the ordinance during the council’s June 13 meeting after concerns were raised about how board members would be appointed. 

McConnell told council members at their June 26 meeting that the creation of the parks department and board would help guide Westfield as it moves forward and “open the door to an immense amount of funding through federal and state sources.” Under the proposal that went before the council, the mayor would appoint four individuals to serve on the board who would serve staggered terms. 

“It’d be really, really nice to have people apply for this, have the council forward a list, you know, we need four names. Maybe we forward eight, 10 names and perhaps the mayor chooses from that list,” Spoljaric said. “I’m just trying to think of a nice way that we all win here if that’s doable.”

City Attorney Manny Herceg told the council that he didn’t see anything in state statutes that would prohibit any type of application process regarding potential parks board members. But concerns were raised during the meeting by Patton regarding financial matters and said the council hasn’t seen a budget for the creation of a new parks and recreation department. 

Patton argued that the city isn’t required to have a board and a parks and recreation department in order to obtain funding. 

“I don’t want to keep creating yet another department where we then assign people … and I don’t think we should actually establish a parks and recreation department until we see the budget because I can’t imagine approving it without seeing the budget first,” Patton said. 

However, the city’s chief of staff, Jeremy Lollar, told Patton that money already exists, noting that it would come directly out of the city’s department of public works. But Patton said he wasn’t opposed to having a parks and recreation board and referenced the city entering into a consultant contract with Legacy Sports Group at Grand Park for services.

“There’s not a new group of people,” Lollar said, noting that employees in the proposed parks and recreation department would already be working for the city of Westfield. 

Patton, however, said he wasn’t in favor of voting for a budget for a parks and recreation department without seeing it first.

“There’s no way I would get behind that,” he said. “Because I think we don’t, and with all due respect, we don’t do a very good job in the operational side of understanding expenses and controlling our expenses.”

No other council members publicly discussed the issue before a final vote was taken regarding the ordinance.