Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Victoria Fowler
Gazette Reporter 

Tekoa Parks and Rec seeks way to pay county loan


January 23, 2020

Whitman County commissioners Tuesday met with members of the Tekoa Parks and Recreation board to discuss a loan the county extended Tekoa parks and recreation that is due Dec. 1, 2020.

The loan was originally granted in 2019 to help cover swim pool operating costs after a Tekoa levy was passed, but failed to meet the certification date.

“We are in a situation where in 2018 we didn’t have a levy, so we put a levy on the docket for 2019 of February for $150,000 for operations and $50,000 for capital improvements,” said John Hall, vice-chair of the Tekoa board. “Those levies were passed substantially, but the person on our board that was responsible to put in the paperwork to certify it by the end of November missed that deadline and our levy didn’t get certified.”

Fran Martin, president of the Tekoa board, said that right now there is no operational money, no levy money coming in and there is the loan of $120,000 with the county and no money to pay it.

“Because of this error, on the part of our treasurer, we don’t have any money coming in to pay you, let alone to have operating funds for 2020,” Hall said.

Hall added that deadlines were missed twice in filing for a levy in 2018 and missing the certification date in 2019.

“Right now, Tekoa Parks and Rec. has a loan due Dec. 1, 2020, to be paid in full,” said Commissioner Art Swannack. “The challenge facing you guys is how are you going to pay back, how are you going to operate this year and going into the future.”

Swannack asked what size levy could be passed to make up the differences.

Hall said the largest he would consider proposing a levy would be $200,000. With this amount the Tekoa parks and rec. board could pay back the $125,000 loan and interest and allow the department to run on a tight budget.

“We were happy about that $150,000 and $50,000 levies because that was a good step for the community and the pool had much needed repairs and people in the community stepped up behind it,” Hall said. “It’s a shame that we find ourselves in this position now with that kind of response that we had then.”

Hall and Martin both said that they are working various means and different avenues so they can have some services for the public this year.

“We are going to do whatever we can to finish that pool and those parks are essential to our community and our town so we are willing to do whatever,” Martin said. “We are trying to find sponsorship or whatever we can to get the pool open on a limited basis for this coming summer of 2020. Our priority is the loan that you were generous enough to give us.

With the deadline being Dec. 1, the commissioners didn’t see much of an issue at the moment regarding the loan. Commissioner Swannack encouraged Hall and Martin to come back in the fall to give an update so the board of commissioners could make a decision then.

Commissioner Michael Largent added that from assuming the levies will go back again in November and from what has been explained in the workshop, he would look favorably on some type of postponement of the repayment when there is money available.

“It’s a lot easier for Fran and the board to come up with plans to keep this thing running if we don’t feel like the guillotine is over our neck immediately,” Hall said.

Both Largent and Swannack said that they don’t believe any meetings with attorneys would be needed and that they aren’t wanting to chop down the district.

Near the end of the workshop, Martin did propose a possible additional $20,000 to $30,000 loan for this operating year.

In regards to the proposal, Swannack said the county will need to see something passed so they could get paid back.

“I don’t think the board could necessarily approve that,” Swannack said. “Right now you have no income and you have no income until you set up a levy to pass it. I’m not saying we couldn’t, but I think we need to see an indication that your board wants to go down that road and figure out how to guarantee revenue to pay it back.”

With the Dec. 1 deadline, the commissioners expressed that they felt comfortable waiting until later this year to meet with the Tekoa parks board to discuss further options.

Commissioner Largent closed out the meeting saying how those who run cemetery, park, fire, etc. districts are heroes that don’t get much praise.

“I want to just tell you how much I appreciate what you do for Tekoa,” Largent said. “You have a bunch of things that are placed on you that are very difficult. Your volunteer efforts are sincerely appreciated by your community and by me.”


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