The Sedalia Park Board met for the first time in 2024 with Board Vice President Roy Poynter presiding as acting board president in Jerry Cases' absence. Secretary Megan Simon was absent Thursday night. Board member Sydni Herrick is now Sydni Killion after getting married recently.

The 30-minute meeting led off with a brief update on the Heckart Community Center by Parks & Rec Director Amy Epple.

There's a small leak in the roof in the south hall of the Center. “It's not a big deal, but it's under warranty, so we want it fixed,” Epple said. “It's a small piece, but it could end up being a big piece.”

Also poor design is to blame for problems with the Heckart's guttering system, Epple said. “We reached out to the architect and we have a meeting going on. 'It's not a good design. Find me a new design, and let's get this fixed,'” she told the architectural firm. “It's not our problem, I feel like they're responsible for it. I want them to come up with a solution and get it fixed.”

Plans call for adding a roof to the chemical room, which contains expensive and dangerous chemicals regularly used at the Heckart.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby

Retirees waiting to use certain equipment in the fitness room at the Heckart is an ongoing problem, but a good problem to have, Epple noted during the meeting.

“Our senior population of retirees is a large chunk of our membership. And so we have quite a few pieces of equipment that have been used more in one year than what we thought they would be in three years. You know, when it comes to electricity, water, all that kind of stuff, we are right where we thought we would be, but our membership numbers are higher than what we were expecting, which again is a great thing to have. We have a good senior population, but I never thought it would be what it is now. It's probably 40 percent higher than what I thought it would be,” Epple said.

Aquatic and gym classes have expanded since the Heckart opened, with 30-40 people in each class, with rehab and therapy firms recommending the Heckart Community Center for their patients after their official therapy program ends. Therefore, more equipment in the fitness center is being requested.

For the seniors, 7:45 a.m., to 2:45 p.m., is the prime time for them to visit the Heckart, Epple noted, adding that when she was helping out at the front desk Thursday, she sold four memberships to two couples from Warsaw. “They want to come here three days a week and work out together, Epple said.

Current membership at the Heckart is a little over 7,000.

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The popularity of pickleball in the US is apparent here in Sedalia as well, with more and more people all all ages coming from surrounding areas to play, many times having to wait to use a court, or leaving the facility and returning later.

The Heckart now offers pickleball classes by a certified instructor as more members become eager to try their hand at the growing sport.

At Centennial Park, an outdoor pickleball court will be added as well as a splash pad, like the one at Hubbard Park.

Parks & Rec's budget will be presented to the board in February and will be finalized and approved in March.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby

“Light Up Liberty is a vision we had five years ago, and I would hope the community can see that it's growing and it's popular and everyone seems to enjoy it, and the businesses and organizations here in town are helping us make it happen. We can't do it on our own, we do the work of it, but they help us, financially, make it happen. So that's why, next year, we're going to have a huge expansion to Light Up Liberty. Country Acres out of Knob Noster, their whole light display, which he's been doing for 20 years, is coming to Liberty Park. So we're really excited for that. That is a display where you'll park your car, sit there for 10 minutes, or come five days a week, and it's a different display (each time). It's entertainment, and we want to bring things that will attract people to Sedalia,” Epple told KSIS.

More improvements to Liberty Stadium will happen in the fall, after baseball season is over, in anticipation of the 2025 season. “We don't want to interrupt anyone's baseball schedule, there's no need for that,” Epple said.

The improvements are possible thanks to a nearly $1.3 million MoDED Local Tourism Asset Development grant announced in mid-April.

The exact amount of the grant is $1,286,985, and will be combined with a matching amount from the City of Sedalia for an approximate total amount of $2.5 million.

The results of the matching grant will mean the remaining natural grass field will be replaced by artificial turf, ADA facilities will be improved, team dugouts will be improved, as well as bathrooms, locker room and spectator seating. Security cameras will be installed, and the stadium will get a new roof as well as a new gutter system. The gravel parking lot will be paved.

The all-artificial turf will allow baseball to be played almost year-round, as well as host more tournaments.

Contractors will begin their work Aug. 5.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby

Parks & Rec's Bobcat was traded in on a newer model Friday, Jan. 5 at Bobcat of Sedalia, and the maintenance department apparently loves it, according to Board VP Poynter.

The old Bobcat was in service two or three years, and was traded in with a $32,000 value towards the new one, which retails for $74,103.06, effectively making the cost of the new one only $42,103.06. So the transaction came in under budget.

The boards' financial report revealed that Parks & Rec is in the negative, currently, the bottom line is at $371,143, which is still about $90,000 better than this time in 2023.

But Epple isn't worried.

“That's always how it is in December and January,” Epple noted, adding that property tax revenue will come arrive and make up the difference soon.

In addition, Epple said that the Park Board sees every single dollar that is spent in the department every month. “I always like to give them a budget update, so they know where we're at, and where we're going and where we were last year, so they can compare. I'm not worried about that.”

Parks and Rec's Marketing and Special Events Coordinator Kaylea Weber left in December to assume a sales position at a local radio station. So the search to replace her is on. Epple plans on making the job a marketing manager position with more experience when hired.

“Great for her, it's a good career move for her. It was an entry-level position that she was doing here. So we, as a staff sat down and talked and asked where are we going with this?” Epple said, adding that she prefers someone who has experience in marketing and special events and can hit the ground running, and won't need to train them on different things. So we're looking at a manager position. And then we approved a program specialist, an entry-level position, with a high school degree and six months of experience. That person will be doing all of our programming.”

The Program Specialist will report to the Marketing Manager, she noted, adding that trips and tours will be offered in the future. Once this is completed, a new organizational chart will be provided to Park Board members.

Randy Kirby
Randy Kirby

During the meeting, Executive Administrative Assistant Renaie Hoard talked about the need for new time clock software that will help greatly with payroll, which is done every two weeks on a Monday.

Epple noted that Parks & Rec still uses paper time sheets, and it takes a lot of time, about 32 hours, for staff to complete payroll for 200 Parks & Rec employees, about 30 of whom are full-time.

The new software will allow employees to clock in and out via their smartphone or tablet. Epple quickly added that one employee cannot clock another employee in or out, nor can they clock in without being physically at their job site. "The City writes our checks and the one thing that was missing was a timekeeper. The digital timekeeper costs about $9,000 per year,” she said, adding that she is always trying to be more efficient and using her employees' time wisely.

Parks & Rec's payroll will increase by about 25 to 35 employees once the new aquatic facility opens.

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