Friends of the Park speaks to Commissioners

Cothren suggested the group take on the financial burden of the park

President of Friends of the Park, Danny Johnson, addressed the commissioner’s court about the volunteer group and what they are doing to help Cass County Park. 
Friends of the Park is a volunteer group who raises money to aid Cass County Park and helps maintain the park. 
Johnson spoke about why he is now president of the volunteer group. 
“I was elected as president of the park again after about nine months of not attending meetings, they asked me to step forward,” said Johnson. 
“Everybody stepped back and I was in the front row and that is how I ended up president,” said Johnson. 
Johnson explained to the court how the volunteer base for their group is dwindling in numbers and asked for the court’s opinion of the volunteer group
“I wanted to get your feeling and opinions of Friends of the Park, we are getting down to where we have very few members because a lot of the young ones have quit – a lot of the older ones are trying to help keep it open and are not physically able to,” said Johnson. 
“We don’t know what you would expect of us as Friends of the Park at this point – if you need us to keep going, I don’t know if we need to keep Friends of the Park going so I wanted your feedback on that,” said Johnson. 
“Most everybody in the group has illnesses and conditions and it limits their ability to do a lot of the work that they use to but we will struggle if you want us to keep going,” said Johnson. 
“I think it is a good project for the community, a lot of old timers have put a lot of time into the park the past few years and I know every time we turn around it floods, which has been pretty bad,” said Johnson. 
“In 2017 and 2018 the Friend of the Park put over $20,000 of fundraising money toward the park and that is not counting the time and labor and sacrifice,” said Johnson. 
Judge Becky Wilbanks inquired about how many members there are in the group. 
Johnson reported that there were 30 families on the roll but only around eight families are active in the volunteer group. 
During commissioners court budget workshops in the past month brought up the amount of money that the park is costing the county. 
Commissioner of Precinct 3 Paul Cothren spoke about Cass County Park which is in his precinct. 
“Since I took office the park has flooded six to eight times,” said Cothren. 
The park is in a low-lying area next to Wright Patman lake and tends to flood during the wet seasons.
Cothren asked Johnson if the volunteer group was a non-profit group and Johnson confirmed that they are. 
“I am glad you are here today, I appreciate you guys coming and talking to the court. There probably could have been a lot more of that in years gone by but it is nobody’s fault,” said Cothren. 
“In my experience the condition of the park, which is in good condition, has always been because of the Friends of the Park have stepped up and worked hard and invested their own funds, time and used their own equipment,” explained Cothren. 
“We have been looking back at the finances from when the Friends of the Park had more free range to run and do -- ya’ll did a better job of fundraising to offset the expenses,” said Cothren.
“We have been kicking it around and trying to figure out how we can get out from under this enormous tax burden on the citizens of the county,” said Cothren. 
“I don’t know if you have seen the reports but itis pretty steep on what the county has paid out for the park and what is on paper does not reflect what the each one of the commissioners have made to the park in the $100,000 range,” said Cothren. 
Over the past fiveyears, the county has lost 101,850.36 in funds designatedfor Cass County Park, which is funded by Cass County taxpayer dollars. 
“I am not trying to beat you with a stick, I am trying to raise this up because we are facing serious issues, this is something we know the citizens enjoy and it something that we like providing,” said Cothren. 
“The fact of the matter is with the legislative climate as it is now they are pushing more things down onto the county and we are having to increase taxes because it is being pushed onto us.’
“So, we are having to look where we can cut, we have cut people in the past when we were in tough times, so we a have to make the hard decisions,” said Cothren. 
Cothren suggested that the county possibly hand the park over to the Friends of the Park for them to take on the financial burden. 
“I don’t know the courts feelings but I am just going to float the idea out there and it is the opposite of what you just said, I wonder if ya’ll would be willing to take it and let us make a contribution and let you guys run it,” suggested Cothren.
Johnson said he would take the matter up with the parks board to see how they would respond the idea of taking on the burden of the park. 
Danny spoke about doing a fundraiser at the park during an upcoming catfish tournament and requested permission to hold a fundraiser. 
The court will vote to give the volunteers permission at the next court session. 

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