City officials debate over how to spend $1 million park budget

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – For many adults looking back on their childhood, playing with their friends at local parks was a staple pastime. Kelvon Johnson, of Evansville, wants his kids to have that same opportunity.

“Back in the day when I was a kid we were always outside and just having fun. Nowadays people listen to music, in the house, playing games,” said Johnson.

Some kids in the area said they don’t want to play outside because of the current conditions of some parks.

“[My kids] love the park. Out here there’s not really much to bring them. Just a few minutes to play on the slide and the swings and just take them back home,” added Johnson.

Mayor Lloyd Winnecke has been proposing the construction of Roberts Park since the beginning of his time in office. He proposed to dedicate $1 million of the 2022 Evansville budget to the project. Councilwoman Missy Mosby is proposing taking the $1 million allotted to the Roberts Park project and using it to fix existing Evansville parks.

“I just feel we need to take care of what we have and we need to start putting in our budgets for repair and maintenance and make sure that the parks we currently have are funded how they should be,” said Councilwoman Mosby.

She pointed out vandalism in the playground and shelter, broken fences around the baseball fields, and sinking basketball goals at Vann-Pollack Park. Mosby also said a local construction project is using the grounds for storage.

Mosby added, “when you take the very front part of the park and use it as a staging area, it doesn’t make it look like this parks is open.”

Councilman Jonathan Weaver said Akin Park needs a lot of work. He said there is barely any mulch in the playground, the grass severely needs to be cut, and there is debris from fallen trees yet to be cleared. Councilwoman Mosby says she could support the idea of Roberts Park in the future, but that the main focus needs to be on what they can do now.

As for Kelvon Johnson, he has faith in the city officials.

“They’ll get there. With the right people I feel like they’ll come together and get these parks right for the kids,” he said.

Evansville Deputy Mayor and Interim Park Director Steve Schaefer said, “As I shared with Councilwoman Mosby last week during a meeting at Vann-Pollack Park, the city is currently doing an assessment of the needs of our neighborhood parks. Until that assessment is complete, the Administration believes it is premature to make budget adjustments, that would delay or prevent other project from progressing. We have a bold vision for Roberts Park which has received a great deal of community input over the past few years and plan to move forward.”

Mosby said the amendments to the budget are due Friday, October 1. She said those amendments will be brought up at the next city council meeting on October 11.

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