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Proposal would abolish Bettendorf park board, replace it with more representative advisory group
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BETTENDORF

Proposal would abolish Bettendorf park board, replace it with more representative advisory group

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Bettendorf's five-member elected park board would be abolished and replaced with an appointed advisory board under a proposal to be considered Tuesday by the Bettendorf City Council.

The change is being considered for several reasons, including that by appointing members, the board could become more inclusive and representative of the community, not comprised only of those people willing to run for office, City Administrator Decker Ploehn explained. At present the board consists of five men, all of whom are white.

Second, the board has no taxing authority, so the city council already has the final say on expenditures. The council also spends considerable time discussing park issues such as the proposal to building a new community center, to add Splash Pads to parks and to build recreational trails, creating duplication.

"It begs the question of why do you have a second elected body?" Ploehn said.

Finally, elimination would created some "operational efficiencies," he said. At present, city staff currently spends 30-40 hours a month supporting the park board by preparing and posting its minutes, among other administrative duties, and the five commissioners are paid per meeting, Ploehn explained.

Each commissioner grosses $144.32 per meeting; if every commissioner attended every meeting — two per month — that would amount to a total payment of $17,317 annually.

At Tuesday's meeting, the council is expected to set a public hearing for Jan. 5 on the park board change, Ploehn said.

After a 30-day wait period, the first reading of an ordinance to change the structure would be Feb. 16, followed by second and third readings on March 2 and March 16, respectively, becoming effective on the 16th.

If the change is approved, current commissioners would be invited to join the advisory board, Ploehn said. If all commissioners join, then the advisory body would likely be expanded to allow for more diversity. The exact size of the advisory board has not been determined, he said.

Current commissioners are Larry Makoben, chairperson; Don Wells, vice person; Steve Wilger; Tim Carroll; and Tom Dryg.

Wells, who has been on the board since 2008, said in an email that he understood the proposal was in the works for a long time, although he wasn't expecting it to come up now. As to whether the change would be for the better or worse, Wells said he couldn't say because he hasn't seen it in action — "it will be completely new to me."

"I would hope that the citizens of Bettendorf come to find out more and voice their opinions in the open forum at city hall over the next few months," he said.

He said he was undecided on whether he would join an advisory board.

Makoben has served on the board since 1999. He said he had "no problem with the way it's being handled," with the proposal going through a public hearing and three readings to give the community ample time to weigh in.

He also said he hadn't decided whether he would join an advisory board.

The other three commissioners could not be reached for comment. 

Park boards have played different roles in different communities through time.

Ploehn said it was his understanding that in the early 1960s, Iowa law required cities of a certain size, such as Bettendorf, to have a board. Over time, cities challenged that, and park boards began disappearing.

Davenport's board was abolished in 1978. 

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