ES council asks for more detailed reports from parks

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

By Samantha Jones

After requesting the documents for months, the Eureka Springs City Council received the first- and second-quarter financial reports from the Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission on Monday, Oct. 26. However, the documents were not quite what council members were expecting.

Council member Susan Harman recalled when the council held a workshop with the parks commission on Aug. 3, saying the council asked for “specific things in … how they broke down their expenses.” That’s not how the reports are written, Harman said.

“It looks like there are some things that are broken down, but as far as the income goes, it doesn’t look like we have a breakdown of what and where that money is coming from,” Harman said. “Obviously, some of that money is because of taxes … but I don’t see anything that differentiates how much they bring in because of shuttles. I don’t see anything that differentiates how much they bring in because of lodging.”

Harman listed other revenue sources that weren’t available on the document and said “it’s just one lump sum.”

“It doesn’t really give us a true picture,” Harman said. “I thought we were real clear in what we were looking for and I thought they’d had these discussions — at least, that’s what we were told is that they were breaking down their financials so they were easier to follow and read, but this is just a general outline.”

Council member Bob Thomas said he’s been asking for the past four months about the parks financials. In the documents presented to the council, Thomas said, there’s no differentiation between what is spent at Lake Leatherwood City Park and what is spent in town.

“I want to see that differentiation, because what’s been happening is the in-town expenditures … they always keep saying, ‘There’s no money there. There’s no money for in town,’ “ Thomas said. “I’m concerned a lot of the payments that … should be charged to the Lake Leatherwood City Park account are charged out of this general checking account and never credited back through the Lake Leatherwood fund.”

Harman added that she’d like to see how much money the commission expects the government to reimburse through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“It’s my understanding that the city has not yet received any payments at this time under the CARES Act,” Harman said. “Is that correct?”

“That is correct,” said Mayor Butch Berry.

“So parks wouldn’t have either,” Harman said. “I’m looking at what the offset is expected to be by the end of the year.”

Council member Melissa Greene agreed with Harman and Thomas.

“I, too, wanted to see the separate accounts and where the money is going,” Greene said. “We’ve had so much public intake in these. They’ve had questions. Would it be possible for the interim director and the chair to be at the next meeting so we can talk?”

Berry said the documents are the commission’s approved balance sheet and profit log.

“Their books are more in depth, of course, and they can submit that to us,” Berry said. “This is what the accountant gave them for approval.”

“I realize they’ve been having a hard time and they’re trying to catch up,” Greene said. “I’d personally like more detail. I know Ms. Harman has asked for their budget. Do you know if they’ve gotten that done?”

Harman confirmed that she asked for a copy of the commission’s 2020 budget months ago and never received it. Council member Harry Meyer said the commission’s accountant could generate more detailed reports for the council and Berry said that’s true.

“It’s just a matter of whether you want two pieces of paper or 50 pieces,” Berry said. “It’s all in there. It’s just a matter of generating it and getting it to us.”

“I guess we’d just ask Rusty [Windle] to generate it and get it to us,” Meyer said.

“Yeah, I don’t see a problem with that,” Berry said.

Earlier in the meeting, the council heard from Eureka Springs Hospital Commission chairman John House on what’s been going on at the hospital. House said the hospital is “in much better condition than it was a year ago,” saying the commission has purchased state-of-the-art equipment for the hospital and brought in specialists.

The commission recently voted to fire its management team, House said, and is searching for a new CEO.

“The previous team we hired about a year ago had an operational style that was not agreeable to the majority of our commission,” House said.

House said the interim director is Angie Shaw, who has worked at the hospital for years as a registered nurse.

Financially, House said, the hospital is in good shape. He said the revenue for September was $526,000 with $555,000 in expenses.

“So we still lost $26,000 last month,” House said. “However, compared to the $500,000 a month we were losing a year ago, we’re definitely moving in the right direction. I’m definitely pleased with that.”

House continued, “All in all, I have to say I believe our hospital is definitely on the right track. We’re not doing everything right, but we’re trying hard to make it a hospital we can all be proud of and rely on. Our hospital is here to stay and we can take care of you for all but the most serious things.”

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, at The Auditorium.

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