ES parks and rec commission votes to approve 2021 budget

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

The Eureka Springs Parks and Recreation Commission is moving forward with its 2021 budget.

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, interim director Scott Miskiel presented the budget. With the help of the finance committee, Miskiel said, he has made some changes to the accounting that will make it easier to understand the budget in the future. Miskiel said the revenue from the 0.125 percent tax will now be placed in a separate account.

“That way, it will make it very easy to track what is being paid and how that is being used,” Miskiel said. “Also since it’s restricted funds, I just don’t like having them commingled.”

Miskiel said he is moving a line item for a vehicle from the general expense fund to a capital expense fund.

“It won’t change our bottom line in any way, but I’ll just move that to a different category,” Miskiel said.

Miskiel said he’s planning several large projects with the budgeted revenue. Commissioner Kevin Ruehle then moved to approve the budget and the commission unanimously agreed to do so.

Also at the meeting, the commission met for approximately 25 minutes in executive session to “consider extending the duration of the interim director’s appointment.”

When the commission returned from executive session, commissioner Dave Hartmann moved to extend Miskiel’s appointment as the interim director until the commission hires a permanent director, giving Miskiel all the duties of the director and raising Miskiel’s pay to $27.50 per hour.

The commission unanimously approved the motion.

The commission then approved the third- and fourth-quarter financials for 2020. Commissioner Scott Bardin said the reports included deleted accounts because of the commission’s work restructuring finances. Those accounts won’t show in the first-quarter financial report for 2021, Bardin said.

“All the accounts that are being shown as deleted are going to disappear,” Bardin said.

Bardin said he was surprised at how well the commission did in the third and fourth quarters, especially considering the parks were shut down for most of the second quarter in 2020. Bardin said the sales tax was down, but it wasn’t down that much.

“I think it’s because people were using the park as a getaway,” Bardin said. “They weren’t really able to go anywhere else.”

Chairwoman Ruth Hager agreed.

“It’s mirroring what’s happened in Eureka,” Hager said. “The shops downtown … many of their months were better than they’ve had in years. Everybody was up because people are choosing Eureka Springs as an escape from the COVID world out there.”

Bardin said the commission saw “phenomenal growth” of cabin rentals at Lake Leatherwood City Park.

“It was amazing to see that jump,” Bardin said. “It looked like an error it was so high, but it wasn’t.”

Miskiel said former director Justin Huss implemented a procedure where cabins weren’t available for rent two days after someone vacated them.

“There was a substantial amount of downtime we shouldn’t have to deal with this year,” Miskiel said.

During the director’s comments, Miskiel said he’s working to renovate one of the cabins at Lake Leatherwood City Park. Miskiel said he budgeted $20,000 for the renovation, saying he plans to renovate one cabin each year.

“I requested $20,000 for remodeling the cabins. For the one we’re doing now, we will certainly exhaust that, if not more,” Miskiel said. “The others are in a lot better shape and shouldn’t cost $20,000 apiece.”

In other business, the commission approved regulations for bike shuttle vendors at Lake Leatherwood City Park. The commission also approved a code of conduct for bike shuttle vendors effective March 15. Miskiel said he’s requiring that bike shuttle vendors have a license in Eureka Springs and pay the appropriate taxes to operate.

“I did add that they can’t advertise or otherwise promote their own businesses from our social media or websites,” Miskiel said. “I am also looking at some software where you can schedule the shuttle rides online.”

Hager announced that the commission is down a couple of members and encouraged those interested to apply.

“We need to keep our eyes and ears open for others who want to join the commission,” Hager said.

The commission appointed new officers for 2021, naming Ruehle chairman, Bardin vice chair and Hartmann secretary.

The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, at The Auditorium.

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