BEAR CREEK - The Bear Creek Town Council meeting was coming to a close, with a motion on the table to adjourn, when a question asked by town council member Chris Gillum led into a fiery discussion and comments on whether the town has a legal park and rec board, resulting in police escorting two individuals out of the meeting.
The town council meeting, held Monday, March 9, at the Bear Creek Municipal Building, had already discussed other issues for about an hour, when new discussion about whether or not the town legally has a P&R board came to the forefront.
The town council under a previous mayor had voted to reestablish a park and rec board, yet the resolution authorizing the board was never signed.
Minutes from town meetings indicate that on Aug. 28, 2018, the council under Mayor Connie Morrison voted to approve a park and rec board ordinance.
Council member at that time Chris Hyde made the motion, seconded by Daniel Green to establish a four member park and rec board to include Danielle Self, Robbie Gillum, Amanda Lauderdale and Patrick Cochran.
However, the ordinance, which was never signed, called for eight board members, whereas the town had only appointed four, noted Town Attorney Cole Christopher.
Also, the board members, according to the ordinance, had to reside in the town limits and that posed a question concerning certain board members.
A town council meeting was held on March 18, 2019, when council member Chris Gillum made a motion to recreate the ordinance for a park and rec board, to include five members and one liaison, Christopher added.
Jimmy Preston seconded the motion, with all council members voting in favor. Council member Lames Loden then made a motion to name Gillum as liaison to the park and rec board. The motion was seconded by Preston, and all voted in favor except Gillum who abstained.
The reason the council did not proceed with the ordnance was due to the Twin Forks Park closed last year for a complete renovation and construction work being done at the time of the March 18, 2019, meeting, Mayor Batchelor said.
Gillum at the end of the March 9 meeting last week, brought out a concern that he had been referred to as council liaison to the park and rec board.
“When they were talking about T-ball and things like that at the park, but my name was mentioned about liaison with park and rec,” Gillum said, then addressed Mayor Batchelor, “was that brought up, mayor?”
“What was asked was what we were going to do with park and rec,” Mayor Batchelor answered.
“So what was my name brought up about? I had people asking me about it, and I had no clue,” Gillum then asked. “There is no park and rec board, so I am no park and rec liaison.”
“We never completely resolved that park and rec board,” Mayor Batchelor responded.
“Well, you did. I didn’t,” Gillum returned. He said they had discussed whether to let parents organize teams for park and rec.
“We didn’t talk about it in an open meeting,” said Gillum. “So we never talked about it again.”
“We talked about organizing teams,” Batchelor said.
Gillum said the town had discussed having a work session to discuss the matter, but a work session was never held.
“I have been questioned about it, and I don’t know what the answer is,” he continued. “I just got put on the spot, and my point is, and I am going on record to say this too, I am for parents organizing the teams and getting the coaches together.
“I am against having a park director, whatever it is called now,” Gillum added. “I am dead set against it for any price, because that money could be used to be put back in the ball fields.”
“I think it ought to be run by the town,” spoke out council member Jimmy Preston.
Fire Chief Rob Taylor noted from the audience that at one time, the school had allowed the park and rec teams a field on which to play.
“If we have some parents are who are really interested and want to kick this thing off, let them get started,” Taylor said.
Gillum said he was very concerned about the kicking off of spring sports and had talked to a few people, trying to get parents involved, but those parents would not get involved because of what had been going on recently.
“I hear the same thing, but from a different set of parents, and that night we went into executive session,” Batchelor began.
“We can’t talk about that,” Gillum interjected.
“I understand that,” the mayor responded. “We were going to have a work session.
“That didn’t fall upon me because I didn’t have anything to do with the basketball.”
“I tried to reconcile the breach between the two groups,” Gillum said. “When I thought things were getting better, the weight got pulled out from under me.
“Some people are needing someone to blame about having park and rec ball over there,” Gillum continued. “I am not going to take the blame for that.”
Mayor Batchelor noted she would not take that blame either.
“We had a bunch of parents who were in place to do all that (park and rec) stuff. Now, they don’t want to do it anymore,” Gillum stated.
“There was a park and rec board that met with y’all and we never had another meeting,” spoke out Danielle Self from the audience. Danielle said she had been identified as park and rec director.
A meeting was held between park and rec members and the town, in December, 2019, at the Bobby Bishop Community Center, where a large crowd gathered, issues were discussed and arguments arose, with people leaving the meeting in anger.
“We were never contacted again by y’all,” Self spoke out from the back of the meeting room. Self then told Batchelor she received a text message from her the day the meeting was supposed to have been held.
“One day we’re told we’re not a board. If are not a board, the ordinance doesn’t matter,” Self said.
The ordinance to which Self was referring was a sample taken from a park and rec board in a larger area, she explained.
Self claims the hand written sample ordinance was submitted to town officials, but that town officials claim such an ordinance was never received.
The ordinance, Self further explained, had been given to the town with changes from park and rec board members. “Hand written,” she said.
Attorney Cole Christopher indicated he had not seen such an ordinance, neither had Town Clerk Jamie Green, she said.
Council member Heath Heatherly had asked at the end of a recent council meeting what the status was of the town’s park and rec board.
Addressing Mayor Batchelor, Heatherly said, “You told me to talk to Chris (Gillum) because Chris was an liaison between the park and rec.”
“I still understand it to be that way,” Batchelor responded.
“Chris, you can look out (in the audience) if you want to, but you still communicate with those people,” Batchelor said addressing Gillum and his communication with those associated with park and rec who were at the meeting.
“I have a question for you now,” Gillum returned to Batchelor. “Can parents organize a little league, youth league and all that stuff over there?”
“They would have to come to the council (for permission) to use the field,” Christopher noted.
Gillum continued to talk as Mayor Batchelor was attempting to talk.
“Chris, let me say something,” Batchelor said. “What I was saying was because you did communicate with them, would it not have been easier for you to have discussed it with them and then brought it back to us. Is that not what I said? Then we could discuss it.”
“The way to handle it would have been for all to come together and discuss it as one, but cancelled three meetings in a row and no rescheduling,” Self said.
“We have those fields over there. We need to use them,” Gillum then said.
“Right now I think it’s a little too late. Some of our children have gone to other leagues,” Gillum added.
“What I am asking is we’re told we’re not a board, then we are told we are a board,” Self said.
Batchelor said she had drafted sign up forms for baseball, softball and T-ball in attempts of helping the situation.
“If you have a bunch of parents that want their kids to play softball, whatever, if there are enough parents, enough kids that want to play, I don’t see a way you can’t,” said Council member Jimmy Preston.
“My question is, do we have a board or do we not have a board,” Gillum then asked.
“That’s where I’m confused. Do we or don’t we?” Heatherly added.
Green as clerk noted the resolution authorizing the park and rec board had never been signed.
“For the last year, I have been the president of this, whatever is a board or not,” Self stated.
Street Supervisor Andrew Welborn suggested the park and rec be under a separate umbrella from the town, that way there are no repercussions against the town.
“Then (the park and rec) would need to take the responsibility of cleaning up,” spoke out street employee Yogi Setliff, noting he had to clean up food containers the last time the park and rec had used the field.
“Obviously they don’t give a piss what they do,” Setliff said.
Mayor Batchelor said this issue goes far beyond just this past year and one child, but it affects all the kids.
“So you can sit here and try to act like I haven’t talked to you and tried to make sense of all this,” Mayor Batchelor said, addressing Gillum. “But you are wrong. You are very wrong. You sat right there and you left out of here, and you went and you twisted the story around
“I didn’t twist anything around,” Gillum responded.
“Yes sir, you did,” the mayor responded.
“There’s got to be an answer given, whether you are a board, whether you are not, you are going to hire somebody, you are not,” Self then said.
Resident Kathy Preston spoke out that when her children were small, the town had an organization known as Athletic Boosters Club, not a board.
“What you can do is post in the paper they are going to organize an athletic booster club. That way, those people who are interested will come into a club. They don’t have to have a board,” Kathy Preston pointed out.
Such a club could conduct fundraisers and keep the profits on needed equipment and concessions that would cover different sports one season after another.
“I asked for a T-ball registration form, and I typed the thing up,” Mayor Batchelor said, “...not because I was wanting to form it on my own.
“I am all for (a park and rec board). I just want it to be done right,” Batchelor added.
Concerning an advisory board, Mayor Batchelor said she was informed members had to live inside the city limits.
“Your council did. I am the one that said make it a district,” Batchelor continued. “You can like it or not. You can roll your eyes up in your head. I don’t care.”
Looking toward the back of the room toward park and rec representatives, Mayor Batchelor said, “I am not an idiot.”
At this point, Green turned around and alerted Police Chief Joey Franks of what had been said at the back of the room that had reportedly prompted the mayor’s remark.
Chief Franks went to the back of the room and asked Robbie Gillum and Self to leave the meeting room, at which time both did without incident.
“We just keep bumping,” Jimmy Preston spoke out. “What if we started over, and it’s just me saying this...what if we just dissolve everything and start over and do what you want to do.
“If I’m wrong in saying this, I’m sorry,” Jimmy added. “Danielle, how do you feel about this and starting over,” he said. At this time, Self was being escorted by the police chief out of the room and did not respond.
Jimmy then made a motion to dissolve any remnants of the town park and rec board and let them start over.
“I don’t think it should the town of Bear Creek deciding what y’all do,” Jimmy said.
“I agree,” Batchelor responded.
Jimmy then restated his motion to dissolve any remnants of the town park and rec board.
“You can’t dissolve something that doesn’t exist,” Heatherly responded.
At this point, several people from all sides of the room were all talking loudly at the same time.
Town resident Ricky Hines then asked who would responsible for the cost of power at the ball fields when park and rec would use the field and who would clean up the fields after usage.
Batchelor stated that responsibility should fall with park and rec.
“This all started because I approached a gentleman yesterday and mentioned about a park and rec director. This is how this all started,” Batchelor said.
Resident Michael Jordan then said this issue was nothing new. “This started before you were ever in that seat,” Jordan said, addressing Mayor Batchelor. “I was was there at the beginning.
“This all started a long time ago,” Jordan added.
“Thank you,” the mayor responded. “This has all been pushed off on me.”
Jimmy then restated the motion he had placed o the table about dissolving any remnants of a park and rec board. “I want them to play ball,” he said, adding the parents or ones wanting to be involved then could organize the kids to play.
Kathy Preston addressed the council that restroom facilities at the ball field concession stands have been deplorable in the past..
“I went over there myself and cleaned them before a big tournament came, so the bathrooms would be clean, and I’m getting paid by the city,” Kathy pointed out.
“After little league football over there, garbage was strewed everywhere. The bathrooms were a terrible mess from garbage in the bathrooms,” Kathy added. “So, somebody needs to be responsible for cleaning up.”
Jimmy said parents should be responsible for picking up after themselves after using the fields and concession area. If not, they should be no longer be allowed to use the facilities, he added.
“Two things I have always promised,” Gillum then said,“to make sure I protect the police and fire here...and I promised I would be with the park and rec board.
“I am not running again guys,” Gillum continued. “You can get somebody else in here... I am not going to go back on my word right now.
“We do need to start again somehow and get the parents involved and get it out of our hands, but also make sure the facilities stay clean and nice and upkept and the people who do use it do so in a manner accordingly with our rules,” Gillum added.
Town Clerk Green then said. “I need a second on this motion (made earlier by Jimmy) or it dies.”
“It’s not that I am not trying. I am not against anybody,” Mayor Batchelor said.
The motion did not receive a second, so the motion died. At this point, Jimmy made a motion to adjourn.
“I second,” Gillum said.
All council members then voted in favor of adjourning the meeting.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.