Commissioners consider using alcohol funds to maintain park in Vassar

Vassar Schoolhouse

County commissioners are looking into whether a county park fund could be used to help maintain a park in Vassar. For more than 30 years, the Vassar Community Service Corporation has maintained the park and adjacent one-room schoolhouse primarily with volunteer labor, donations, and building rental fees. A sign in front of the old schoolhouse indicates the park behind it is a Jones Youth Park.

Osage County commissioners might have found a funding source for upkeep of a park in the unincorporated town of Vassar. At the April 15 commission meeting, commissioners met with Wilburn Ludlum, chairman of the Vassar Community Service Corporation, who requested monetary assistance from the county to renovate a picnic shelter in the Vassar park.

Vassar Community Service Corporation and its volunteers had maintained the park and adjacent one-room schoolhouse, which serves as a community center, for almost 30 years, but in 2008 county commissioners approved a lease with the corporation, accepting responsibility for any major repairs needed at the schoolhouse. The building and park is owned by the county. The service organization rents out the building for community events, family reunions and other types of meetings.

Ludlum told commissioners the picnic shelter’s concrete floor was in need of repair, due to large cracks that cause a safety hazard. He proposed that he be allowed to remove the concrete floor and replace it with gravel until a time funds could be raised to replace the structure. He said putting in a new concrete floor could cost several thousand dollars, and the shelter’s roof would need replaced in the future.

During the discussion of funding for such a project, Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall noted the county collects funds every year from taxes on alcohol sales in the county, and that money can only be used for parks.

Kuykendall said that since the county has not officially maintained any parks of its own, in the past the money has been distributed to municipalities in the county.

“We have this money sitting in a pot,” Kuykendall said. “If we could, I’d cheerfully do something with it.”

Ludlum said the volunteer service organization has maintained the park with volunteer labor and fundraising efforts over the years, and even though it was known the county owned the land where the park is, no funds for the park’s maintenance had been requested from the county. Rental fees for the building have also helped provide funds.

The commissioners conferred with county counselor Caleb Crook to see if it was legal to use the county’s park fund for the Vassar park. It was noted that a sign at the park states it is a Jones Park. The Jones Foundation has provided funds in the past to establish many parks in eastern Kansas.

After a quick review of the statute, Crook indicated the commissioners could likely designate the funds for the Vassar park.

Commissioners asked Crook to review the statutes further to confirm the funds could be used, and also asked Ludlum to return in a few weeks with estimates for constructing a new floor in the shelter house and rebuilding the shelter house. Ludlum said his goal is to have the concrete removed or the floor replaced before Vassar Funfest, which is scheduled for Oct. 26. The Funfest is an all day celebration that includes a parade, costume contest, car show and live entertainment.

Commissioners also said that since the county owns the park, it could be possible for the county’s road and bridge department to use machinery to assist in removing the old concrete. They agreed to speak with Glen Tyson, road and bridge supervisor, about the work.

Noting the park was a Jones’ park, Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer suggested the Vassar Community Service Organization contact the Jones Foundation to see if grants are available for the park’s upkeep.

During the meeting, Ludlum presented a list of the many repairs and renovations that have been completed at the schoolhouse and park over the last few years. He noted the county had paid for the schoolhouse’s new vinyl windows, a new furnace, and repair of a gable, but all of the remaining work and materials, including painting, plumbing, safety equipment, and general repairs had been provided by volunteers and donations. Also funded by donations were new appliances in the schoolhouse’s kitchen, new tables, and installation of insulation that cost $1,400.

Revised April 30, 2013, to correct spelling of Wilburn Ludlum’s name.


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