Geauga Park District Commissioner Howard Bates recently suggested that the board be expanded from three members to five.
We agree that adding two commission members would be beneficial to the park board and the residents of Geauga County.
The park district has become an intricate part of life for many families in the county, providing recreation, offering environmental education and preserving wildlife habitat. The county district, created under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1545 about 58 years ago, has gone from the 4-acre Woodin Road Park to about 25 properties covering hundreds of acres.
Mr. Bates said more commissioners would allow business to be conducted more efficiently should one or two board members be absent due to family concerns, business commitments or illness. Early in March, the board had to postpone the meeting when two commissioners were absent resulting in a lack of quorum. Mr. Bates pointed out that contracts needed to be approved to keep the district operating smoothly.
Ironically, board President Andrej Lah last week declined to second Mr. Bates’ motion to expand the board because board member Jackie Dottore was absent from that meeting. According to state law, the board need only approve a resolution requesting the probate judge increase the number of park commissioners to five.
Geauga Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Timothy J. Grendell said the board under ORC 1545 has the authority to add two members. It’s their decision, not his. He pointed out that other similar county park boards in Trumbull, Portage and Mahoning counties have five board members while districts in Geauga and Lake have just three.
Besides helping the district operation run more smoothly, an increase in board members could bring more diversity to the decision-making process. We see this as an important benefit.
In recent years, some actions by the park district board have been controversial, drawing opposition from citizens concerned about a number of issues, including maintaining land for passive parks. The clash between the park board and some citizens has been so contentious that the board eliminated the public comment segment of its meetings. Just about every public body gives citizens a minute or two to voice opinions at meetings.
We believe that adding board members will bring more expertise and viewpoints to the commission and help the park district operate more effectively.