to play nice
At issue: a tractor, a bunch of skate
boards and baseball fields.
According to Dan Houlahan, the Platte County Athletic
Association (PCAA) capital development chairman and
former president, the Platte City Park and Recreation
board wants to play games that most of the players don't
want to play (i.e. skateboarding). The parks and recreation
board has countered by saying Houlahan doesn't agree
with them, so he wants to take his proverbial ball (a
tractor) and go home.
Part 1: The Tractor
The tractor, which has become the central figure in
the dispute, was partially funded by Platte County to
the PCAA in a 2001 parks and recreation outreach grant.
The John Deere tractor was ostensibly purchased to assist
in caring for the city's ball fields.
Houlahan said he offered to lease the
tractor to Platte City for $1 a year, but the city rejected
his plans for the lease.
Richard Stephens, park board president,
says the lease comes with too many strings attached.
"Dan wanted a contract and he sent
us many, many contracts and I didn't agree with any
of them," Stephens said.
According to Stephens, the PCAA received
the grant for the tractor so they could use it to upkeep
their fields. They then ran out of volunteer help to
actually use the tractor, so former PCAA president Dan
Tylski asked the city to provide maintenance for the
fields. Stephens said that he and Tylski agreed that
the board would then charge the PCAA for the costs of
maintaining the fields. Stephens said that under Houlahan,
the fees weren't paid.
Houlahan counters that he asked the board
to implement a user fee per child that the PCAA could
collect through registration dues. To date, the board
has yet to agree on the fee or if there should even
Tylski tells a slightly different version.
"The city has always mowed the fields, and the
PCAA has always maintained them," Tylski said.
"Now I don't know about you, but times are hard
and it's difficult to get volunteers who can put in
the time to maintain baseball fields.
Maintenance, and not who owns the tractor,
is the main problem according to Tylski.
"Everybody wants to fund the creation
of the parks and get all of the glory, but nobody wants
to work at maintaining them.
Tylski said the whole tractor dispute
was started by the city in the first place.
"Everyone used an old Ford tractor
that the city had until (City Administrator) Keith Moody
sold it without ever telling any of us. He basically
said 'nobody's using this' and he sold it without even
offering us the chance to buy it.
When reached for comment, Moody offered
a different version, saying the city had another tractor.
The original tractor, Moody said, was sold at public
auction after the city decided to contract out their
mowing services, thus eliminating the need for the second
tractor. He did not specify what the second tractor
was being used for.
Part 2: Baseball players and skateboards
The reason why ball fields need to be maintained by
industrial strength tractors is because a lot of people
want to play on them. So many in fact, Tylski said the
demand has far outreached supply.
"The PCAA outgrew the fields and
couldn't serve enough potential players," Trylski
Houlahan clearly agrees, and he takes
issue with the fact that the city has decided to not
follow the Platte Ridge Park master plan's first phase,
which called for the creation of four more baseball
fields. He's also upset about the city's continued interest
in building a skate board park. On Monday evening, he
told the park board how he felt.
"I'm all for minority sports, but
if we're planning on giving $50,000 for a skatepark
that is going to support 50 skateboarders and give nothing
to a baseball field that can support 550 baseball players,
then I have a real problem with that," Houlahan
Park board member Lisa Rehard, in turn,
had a problem with Houlahan's assessment. Rehard, who
also serves on the board for the chamber of commerce
and is a partner in a downtown law firm, pointed to
a $35,000 grant the city helped obtain from the county.
The grant provided for the construction of a new softball
field at the high school.
"I wrote that grant (proposal),"
Houlahan pointed out.
"Then you should know," Rehard
fired back, adding that the city threw in matching funds
and had traditionally donated to baseball in the city.
"It's a little unfair to say that we haven't supported
baseball in Platte City when we have.
Tylski agrees, saying that traditionally
the city has donated funds to the PCAA.
"Even though many of the players
aren't Platte City residents, they are R-3 students
and the city has traditionally recognized that."
Houlahan acknowledged the past support
and again reiterated his stance against the skatepark.
"Normally, I'd be their biggest champion...I
just think that right now they are a smaller group,
and the baseball population is being underserved.
Stephens said that the skatepark is a
non-issue in any event. He asserts the board is not
choosing skateboarding over baseball, but he is interested
"We have four baseball fields in
Platte City and zero soccer fields," Stephens explained.
"(Houlahan) is very intent on baseball and that's
admirable, but we're a bit more broader focused (on
Stephens said the city, in the midst of
a financial crisis, wasn't able to afford the baseball
fields at this time. He also said the skatepark discussion
is in its infancy.
"We are literally months away from
the first step," Stephens stated.
Stephens expressed optimism that the dispute
will be settled soon. He hopes that the county board
of parks and recreation will help the two parties reach
"This is counterproductive,"
Stephens said. "Dan and I need to sit down with
a mediator and work this out. I'm getting tired of this."