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New Albany, In. (WDRB News) -- Emotions are running high over a plan to split up the New Albany/Floyd County Parks Department. The controversy is over the city of New Albany's plans to create a separate parks department.
An on-the-street debate developed Friday morning outside the City County Building in downtown New Albany after critics of the plan gathered for a news conference.
Councilman Dan Coffey took the opportunity to express his displeasure for the way the current parks department is operating. "Don't tell me how much you've done for the inner city parks, I've seen what they are," said Coffey.
Coffey is the sponsor of legislation before the New Albany Council that would create the separate parks system. He believes the county wide parks department is putting more money into the parks in suburban areas at the expense of the inner city parks.
"The kids have to go to the woods to use the bathroom," said Coffey, "don't tell me about equality or equity, or whatever."
Parks Board President Scott Klink responded to Coffey saying, "Whether they are in the city or the county they have been taken care of, there is no discrepancy."
Klink says the current controversy on how the parks system should be operated is part of a bigger problem. "It's unfortunate," he says, "but a consistent theme between the city and the county is that there has been a great deal of friction between the two entities, trying to find a common ground has been a challenge."
New Albany Jeff Gahan supports the plan for a separate parks system.
He has said the city, over the years, has been contributing more money into the current system and that the county has not been paying its fair share.
Klink responds, "We recognize there has been a funding discrepancy in the past, hopefully the community has come together to resolve and address this issue; the county has stepped up and funded $500,000 for this year and next year."
The parks annual budget is around a million dollars for the 16 parks in the city and county.
Klink believes two separate park systems will end up costing taxpayers more money. "There is going to be duplicate services, duplicate personnel, it is going to cost us more to maintain what we currently have," says Klink.
A vote by the New Albany Council is set for Monday night.
WDRB attempted to interview Mayor Gahan for this story but was told by an aide that he had a full schedule on Friday and would not have time to talk.