Hoosier City May Close Seasonal Campground
The city of Muncie, Ind., is running out of money to operate Prairie Creek Reservoir and the city controller says one solution is to raise fees for campers – or close the campground altogether, according to the Muncie Star Press.
In a heated Parks and Recreation board meeting Tuesday (June 17), controller Mary Ann Kratochvil asked the board to consider raising fees for seasonal campers at the campground. Otherwise, she said, the city may have to kick them out in August.
"There's going to have to be some hard decisions made," she said at the board meeting.
The city operates about 130 seasonal campsites at Prairie Creek that are available to the public for lease about six months a year for $900.
Fees are outlined in a contract between the campers and the city and have already been paid this year.
Camper Joanna Myers said the campers would band together against the city if the terms of the contract were broken.
"We have a written agreement with the city," she said. "We paid our fees."
Kratochvil said afterward she did not yet know how much fees would need to be raised to cover expenses.
Parks board President Jennifer Abrell said the city was inviting chaos and anarchy – not to mention lawsuits – if it raised fees mid-season or kicked out campers who were covered by a contract.
"Litigation is pretty expensive and that's going to cost a whole lot more than figuring out how to operate Prairie Creek," Abrell said.
Abrell suggested the city transfer funds from somewhere else in the city budget to cover Prairie Creek operating costs.
Kratochvil responded that the city had no money to transfer.
The exchange between Abrell and Kratochvil grew argumentative and ended with Abrell angrily pounding her fist on the counter in front of her and threatening to bring a gavel to the next meeting.
The parks board took no action on Kratocvhil's request.
Whether the financial situation might result in the city closing the beach, the boat ramp or other areas of the park is unknown and those decisions would be up to Mayor Sharon McShurley, Kratochvil said.
Kratochvil listed several reasons why she said Prairie Creek was running out of money.
In past years, the Muncie Sanitary District (MSD) had emptied campground septic tanks at no cost. The State Board of Accounts, however, put an end to that this year. Because the MSD is a separate taxing district from the city, it must charge the city for the service. Septic service through MSD is now expected to cost $1,000 every two weeks and $1,875 for holiday weekends.
Utilities such as electricity and water are going up.
Former superintendent Ron Bonham had accumulated about $47,000 in sick and vacation time and the city was required to compensate him upon his departure.