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Village Council meets on park today

FLAT ROCK — The Flat Rock Village Council, in its first public discussion reacting to a proposed park at the Highland Lake Golf Club property, indicated support of the idea while also raising questions about the yearly maintenance cost.
"I'm in favor of pursuing this," said Vice Mayor Nick Weedman. "The initial capital investment and initial development of the park can be handled within our existing financial structure."
The ongoing cost, he added, is another question and one that the council needs to try to answer. Council members focused on two main options for park maintenance: contracting with Henderson County or hiring a private contractor.

The Flat Rock Village Council is holding a public meeting at 2 p.m. today to continue the park discussion.
In a 41-page report it drafted after three months of research, public input and cost projections, the Highland Lake Park Exploratory Committee recommended that the Village Council buy the 66-acre golf course land and develop it for passive use in phases. Counting a purchase price estimated at about $1 million, the capital investment would be about $2.5 million. The committee was unable to get a quote from Henderson County on how much annual maintenance would cost, in part because the advisory panel could not say in detail what improvements would be on the grounds.
"I think that's one of the things that really needs to be understood before we ever make a commitment because it's not so much the development as it is the ongoing costs that will continue forever I guess," Weedman said.

Mayor Bob Staton said the council has some time to research and deliberate but not a lot.
The golf course is preparing now for the spring-summer season. The Village Council will face an up-or-down vote on the purchase if it were to get word, around June, that it had won a $475,000 grant for the acquisition.
Councilman Jimmy Chandler questioned the park committee's recommendation for a new entrance and new parking lot right away, at a cost of $434,000. That could wait, he suggested, until more is known about traffic.
Councilman Don Farr said maybe not. The state DOT could require the new entrance for safety reasons, he said.
Councilman Ron Davis praised the committee's report broadly but took issue with its suggestion that volunteers could run the park.
"Flat Rock has enjoyed a wealth of volunteers," he said. "But volunteers can only go so far in my opinion and we need to think about that carefully, particularly if we set up some sort of non-profit foundation."
In a 1,600-word letter articulating opposition to the park, Flat Rock resident Bob Demartini, a retired business owner, said the idea was a "want and not a need."
Weedman said no one disputes that. But he added, "If we're trying to do things to improve the Village of Flat Rock, is this one of the things that can do it, and to me that answer is yes."
Staton rebutted a part of Demartini's brief that said the committee report had referenced "multiple polls purporting to confirm that a majority of Flat Rock residents favor investing in the park and its ongoing expense."
"I don't see anywhere in this report where any such claim is made," said Staton, a lawyer. "There are reports in here analyzing those comments that came in, the majority of those who responded were in favor. But that's not to say that a majority of the citizens of Flat Rock approve of what we're talking about."
Vice Mayor Nick Weedman suggested that the village might want to try to poll the townspeople again.
Village administrator Judy Boleman said the subject has already been the subject of abundant news coverage, polling and public comment opportunities.
"It's been in the newspapers on a weekly basis if not more," she said. "There has never been more of an effort in the village to make this stuff public and ask for input than there has been with this park."