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Parks control discussed in proposed city charter changes

Parks control discussed in proposed city charter changes

June 20th, 2018 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

Golfers are shown preparing to swing at Oak Hills Golf Center in Jefferson City in this August 2017 photo.

Photo by Mikala Compton /News Tribune.

The Jefferson City Charter Review Advisory Committee plans to meet one more time next week to hopefully finalize recommendations to be sent to the City Council on potential changes to the city charter.

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At its Tuesday night meeting, the committee heard from members of the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission who had concerns about potential charter changes that had been put forth by City Attorney Ryan Moehlman.

Parks commission Vice President Lindsey Rowden told the committee they were particularly concerned with changes they felt removed any authority from the Parks commission to approve plans for development of city parks or capital improvements. She said the commission felt this would slow or delay projects.

Also, Rowden said the commission felt moving the Parks director to reporting to the city administrator instead of the commission would "create another level of supervision that is unwarranted and unnecessary."

The Parks and Recreation Foundation also asked local attorney Stephanie Bell to look at what was proposed. She said the city felt a change was needed, claiming the 2005 elimination of the parks property tax — when voters approved a sales tax to instead fund parks — extinguished any rights of the Parks commission under state statute, including the right to exclusively control the park fund.

She said, in 1995, then-Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon found there was no language in the statute extinguishing the right of an established park board when a property tax is no longer levied.

Moehlman said the purpose of the proposed city charter changes was to clear up any ambiguity in the language about exclusive control matters.

Rowden said voter-approved language in 1995 made it clear commission members are nominated by the mayor and then appointed by the City Council, and the council has the authority to approve the budget and administer the money collected from the half-cent sales tax.

Charter committee members agreed while there is a good working relationship now between the city and Parks commission, there could be a change down the road, and efforts should be made to look at whether or not the City Council had exclusive control of parks.

One thing both commission members and members of the committee did agree on was Parks employees should be considered city employees, which was one of the proposed charter changes.

Before the charter committee meets again next week, the Parks commission will meet and come up with ideas of what they feel would be acceptable changes for Moehlman and Bell to look at.

In other action Tuesday night, the charter committee approved proposed changes that would add language giving the City Council authority to remove the city prosecutor from office for just cause, including if he were found guilty of a felony or neglects the duties of his office.

Last month, the committee decided they would not recommend to the council that the city prosecutor be an appointed position instead of an elected one.

The committee has been meeting about twice a month, reviewing each section of the city charter, since the City Council established the committee in March.

While many proposed changes are technicalities — changing "city" to "City" and "councilmen" to "councilmembers" — there are recommended term limits changes for the council and changes to the city clerk's residency.

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The committee will recommend City Council members' term limits be four consecutive full terms instead of an absolute eight-year limit and would require a two year term service break before serving on the council again.

This proposed charter amendment came to the City Council last year and earlier this year but at both times expired on the informal calendar due to inaction by the council.

The committee also approved a recommendation that the city clerk not have to live in the city limits but instead must comply with the same residency requirements as department directors.

The committee has until July 9 to make recommendations so the council can decide whether to place those proposed changes on the November ballot. If the committee needs more time, it has until Sept. 24 to make suggestions for the April 2019 ballot.

If the council places the suggestions on the ballot, the committee will be terminated.