The Sedalia Park Board met for only 20 minutes Thursday evening at Convention Hall, but they got a lot accomplished during that time period.

The main topic of discussion was of course the Heckart Community Center, expected to be completed in time for grand opening ceremonies on March 18.

“We're moving along, we've got a lot to do. I can say that my staff is working seven days a week right now. We're happy where we're at, we're excited for March 18 at 10 a.m. And by 11 a.m., everything will be open. Come join us,” said Sedalia Parks & Rec Executive Director Amy Epple.

Epple noted that the large competitive pool and the leisure poll will start to fill with water Jan. 24.

She estimated that Paric Construction will be done with the project by mid-February.

Lots of hiring and training is going on at the Heckart, Epple said. “We're getting lots of applicants for lifeguards, fitness instructors, front desk workers, child watch and custodians. We'll start training in February, but right now we're doing the application process,” she said. “Training is really one of my biggest things I push for with my staff.”

Epple's Convention Hall staff will transplant their offices to the Heckart in mid-February (two staff members will remain at Convention Hall).

Epple estimated that she and her staff spend about 80 percent of their time preparing for the opening of the Heckart, and about 20 percent dealing with the upcoming Parks & Rec budget.

“Huge kudos to my staff, because they are really working hard and getting everything going. And most of my staff has never worked at a community center before. This is new for them. I ran the one in Warrensburg, so I'm familiar with how the daily operations are go, and I know what to expect,” Epple said.

March 18 is when the hard work really starts, Epple said. “You think you have everything planned, but like I always tell my staff, there's 26 letters in the alphabet, you gotta be ready with Plan A and Plan B, all the way to the way to Z,” she said.

One unexpected thing that happened was the need for a change order to solve a drainage issue at the Third Street entrance to the Heckart.

“The original design for the approach on 3rd street was to use the existing curb inlet for the drainage of the approach. The approach was to be asphalt with a swale of about one percent fall. However, upon evacuation, the corrugated metal pipe going from the area inlet to the existing curb inlet was found to be rusted out and needed to be replaced, along with the inlet.

“Parks Project Manager Matt Harris met with Paric Construction and also Engineering Surveys & Services, along with Allison Vandever of SFS, and told them about the concerns of an asphalt approach with a swale ponding water and becoming ice in the winter.

“It was agreed that the approach needs to be concrete, with a grate or similar design to prevent ice buildup.

“I believe the new design with the grate is a good option without having to make improvements to 3rd Street,” Epple told the Park Board.

The total amount of the change order is $45, 877.76.

“No one likes a change order. I definitely don't like spending more money,” Epple said. “But it was an error, something that wasn't maybe done correctly. But anyone who's done any projects, such as remodeling the kitchen, I don't know if anyone could tell you that they did everything they planned on in the beginning and had no changes. So things are going to come up. It's a $26.4 million dollar project, and this is the second change order that we've asked them to approve. So I think we're very fortunate. We still have nine more weeks until we open. I'm hoping we don't have any more. But these are things that I look at and bring to the board if I really feel like this needs to happen … In Missouri, you don't want that rainwater freezing and cars sliding around right there,” Epple said. “Let's get it done and get it done right.”

Operating concession stands at the ball parks has become a losing proposition over the past couple of years and Epple, as well as Recreation Superintendent Courtney Fry, are working on coming up with a solution.

Reasons for most of the concessions operating in the red include COVID, minimum wage going up, soaring food costs and visitors bringing their own food to the ball game from home.

Most concessions are staffed by two people, which amounts to roughly $25 an hour for four hours, which equals about $100 in labor costs per night. And that's not counting food cost, of course.

“We're just not bringing in the money,” Epple stated. “And it comes to a point where we have to be financially responsible with the taxpayers' money. Concession stands should not be losing money. It's not a service, it's there to help us with some other areas.”

Epple noted that some girls softball teams run their own concessions with volunteers. “And those volunteers work hard. We don't have volunteers we can do that with, we have paid staff. So we're just running the numbers and looking at (what to do),” she said.

“Some things in Parks & Rec are services and you know that you're not going to make money at it. We're okay with things like that. But there's other things you should be making some money, or at least breaking even. And we're not breaking even,” Epple said.

It's time to stop making excuses and bring it to the board and see what we need to do, Epple explained.

“We just need to be responsible and evaluate all programs. We've been evaluating this for the last three years,” Epple said.

“Everyone says Parks & Rec is non-profit, but you have to have that business mindset and I do have to run it like a business. If there's areas that are losing too much money, then it's just like the pools, there's no pools out there that make money. But we try every year to get closer, and we have been doing a good job of that. We know that we will never be making a lot of money off the pools, but we'd sure like to get better at breaking even. If it was a money-maker, there'd be other pools popping up, and I don't see that happening,” Epple concluded.

Two Park Board members were absent from Thursday night's meeting, including Kristy Woolery and Jan Summers. The Sedalia Park Board meets on the second Thursday of the month. The public is invited to attend.