NP Community Park Foundation clashes with Village Council

By Braden Moles -

NEW PARIS — An explosive New Paris Village Council meeting took place on July 6 as the New Paris Community Park Foundation (NPCPF) clashed with village council over the New Paris Park Project.

Recent meetings saw the NPCPF ask the New Paris Village Council for open communication. After receiving a letter from Mayor Kathy Smallwood on June 14 saying the work the NPCPF had done was unsatisfactory, NPCPF board member Allen Melody spoke at Monday’s meeting and read into the record the bylaws of the NPCPF.

“I wanted to read this into the record for a couple of reasons, but the first one is that our foundation was formed to provide opportunities for the public of New Paris,” Melody said. “The Foundation has recently become aware via a personal written letter from [Mayor Smallwood] dated June 14, 2020, that the work that The Foundation has performed up until this point is unsatisfactory and that the trust in the foundation is no longer present.”

Melody went on to explain the success of the NPCPF speaks for itself, including success on social media, local businesses offering help with the park and the relationship that the NPCPF has with the Dayton Foundation that helps to assist nonprofits.

“We just wanted to read in the minutes what we have done and we wanted to really express our successes because I don’t think that the public might not know what we’ve been doing,” Melody said. “So, thank you for listening.”

Following Melody’s address, council member Ralph Dungan brought up a concern with the NPCPF.

“This park committee, it’s gotten out of hand because it’s supposed to be under the leadership of the council, not under its own leadership,” Dungan said.

NPCPF President Brad Hampton explained the bylaws of the NPCPF were voted on and approved by the village council, so they would have the final say.

“The Foundation will present the proposed project and the bids to the village council for discussion and approval. We can’t do anything up there without you,” NPCPF representative Brad Hampton responded. “We’ve said that all along. So I don’t know why you want to argue with us that we are.”

Dungan interrupted to say he did not start the argument.

“All you’re saying is that we’re trying to control. You have final control,” Hampton said. “We know it’s your property.”

“You sit up there, or your representative sits up there and bad mouths our mayor, then that offends me,” Dungan said, referencing Melody’s response to Mayor Smallwood’s letter.

“I’m not insulted. I’m fine, so let’s just move on,” Mayor Smallwood said before urging everyone to get along and get something done.

“Bring us some leadership,” Melody then chimed in to the surprise of Mayor Smallwood. “Your leadership is not gonna make it. It’s not what’s necessary.”

Council member Dungan quickly responded to say the village council can make the NPCPF defunct.

To ease tensions, NPCPF Vice President Chris Dungan stepped in to reiterate the NPCPF has followed the bylaws laid out by the village council.

“We’re trying to work with the village council. We’re trying to go by the rules that you’ve laid out. Whether you think we are or not, we are, and we double-check ourselves,” Chris Dungan said. “Are we using the right process stated in the bylaws that you approved? Yes, we are, but then they change. Somebody says something that we don’t like and we go off on a tangent. It’s not the entire council. It’s a couple individuals. Let’s talk. Let’s communicate. But instead, [you] want to throw rocks at our foundation.”

Ralph Dungan responded saying that the NPCPF is “throwing them at our mayor.”

“I’m fine,” Mayor Smallwood reiterated. “I didn’t appreciate a lot of things that happened either, but I think we can move on, and if we can’t, then we’re just going to have to just say forget it.”

Chris Dungan said that for everyone to move on, it would require work getting done instead of “spinning your wheels the first Monday of the month,” and that despite the NPCPF following the bylaws established by the village council, the NPCPF is often sent back to the drawing board.

“I’m going to tell you, I was very disappointed in the park meeting that we had prior to the joint meeting with the council,” Mayor Smallwood said. “Things weren’t — it looked to me like, I couldn’t tell and I said this in my letter — either you had no idea how to plan this project as far as the basketball court, or you just didn’t want to tell us what you had in mind. And that apparently, I thought that was probably more it.”

Chris Dungan explained the NPCPF has requested work sessions with smaller groups to get things done, but they instead turn into special meetings where nothing gets accomplished.

“It got thrown all out of sorts, whether it was negative feelings on the council part, negative feelings on our part, — but I can’t say, I think a little bit of both,” Chris Dungan said. “This is a huge misunderstanding, we have to get to where we can work within the two bodies and actually work without bad attitudes on each side.

“I agree with that,” Mayor Smallwood said. “100 percent.”

The issue of money and costs associated with the park then came up.

“Before we became a 501(c), we raised money and it’s a town account and once we became part of the umbrella, under the Dayton Foundation, we have raised more money and that’s our invested account,” Hampton said. “That money is what will go between what other grants that we have applied for and things of that nature.”

Hampton then clarified the upkeep of the park and various costs will hopefully be funded by a combination of funds from The Foundation and charitable donations.

The discussion then moved toward expected changes to the basketball courts in New Paris.

The courts in New Paris that currently run east to west and are over 100 feet long, much larger than a regulation NBA court, will be shifted 90 degrees so that they run north and south. Additionally, the courts will be shortened to 80 by 50 feet to avoid a sewer line that runs south of the courts.

Hampton requested a vote from village council to reorient the basketball courts for when bids are eventually submitted.

After some discussion about what liability would fall back on New Paris if the project does not get approved, Mayor Smallwood presented a motion for the council to vote on.

“If the basketball courts project is approved, the orientation may be changed from east-west to north-south,” Mayor Smallwood said. “That’s the motion.”

The motion passed 4-1. Council members Ralph Dungan, Mary Jane Thomas, Luther Conway and Kim Fields voted in favor of the motion while member Mort Maish voted against. Member Peggy Bishop abstained.

The next regular meeting of New Paris Village Council will be held on Aug. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Village Building.

By Braden Moles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles

Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @BradenMoles