How to differentiate in the public eye between using public funds and using private donations for public projects was a question raised Thursday during the Tiffin Park Board meeting.
The two main topics were funding cuts needed because of the defeat of the city income tax in Tuesday's general election and an update on the donation-funded Bark Park to become part of Hedges-Boyer Park.
Although all board meetings are open to the public, the evening meeting was set as the board's annual invitation for public comment. Two members of the public attended, plus several members of John Bing's elections class at Heidelberg University.
During the first part of the meeting, Chairman Bing and other board members discussed statements by Mayor Aaron Montz before the election that the city swimming pool would not open and
there would be no Fourth of July fireworks if the quarter-percent income tax increase didn't pass.
According to the swimming pool annual report, distributed at the meeting, cost of operating the pool this summer was $32,000.
"I don't see much savings that can be accomplished," Bing said. "I'm thinking the pool is just a very small savings.
"Factor in the cost of this number of kids without supervision for most of the summer," he said. "I don't know how to factor in the cost to the city for that."
Bing also said there is a cost involved in "mothballing" the pool for a year. When it was discussed a few years ago, he said the cost was around $10,000 to keep it closed. Park and Recreation Director Steve Dryfuse said he would get information on the cost of not opening the pool for the board's next meeting.
Also on the chopping block would be summer day camps, which would save $8,000-$10,000 in seasonal worker wages, mainly teens and young adults.
Special events and national programs such as Punt, Pass and Kick, the fishing derby funded by Tiffin-Seneca Izaak Walton League, the kite derby funded by Tiffin Moose could continue.
The board discussed several options of raising funds for the pool such as raising the cost of passes, asking for donations and decreasing the number of days it would be open.
Brian Bilger, city council's representative on the board, said the problem is the perception of using money on the pool when police, fire and other safety personnel are being cut.
"As a council and as an administration, the most important thing for us is the safety of the city," Bilger said. "The mayor would rather see donations put toward vital services instead of fireworks.
"We don't like this more than anybody else, but we're going to feel some of the effects of the economy and the voice of the public," he said. "We're not trying to trick anybody. We've laid our budget out to anybody who wants to see it. They're not scare tactics.
"There's really nothing good about this. It stinks. The park is a phenomenal asset to this city, but we're more concerned about the actual safety of the community."
Bilger said there has been no mention of eliminating any of the three people who work in the parks department.
"People think you have plenty of money. They're building a dog park and memorial," he said, referring to the Tiffin Police and Fire All Patriots Memorial downtown. "I don't know what you need to do to get the message out.
"It's a great thing that we have citizens stepping up and making things happen, but it backfires," he said. "It's kind of a Catch 22."
One of the privately funded projects is a proposed Bark Park to be installed at Hedges-Boyer Park.
Keith Hodkinson, chairman of the Bark Park Citizens Committee, gave the board an update on the dog park project.
"Not a penny of city money is being used to do this," he said. "That is crucial for people to know."
He said the project's total cost is $120,700, and all but $55,000 already has been committed. The remainder is to be raised by selling sponsorships for benches, trees and bricks.
"These are all people interested in the dog park," Hodkinson said, holding up a thick folder full of papers. "It shows that people want the Bark Park."
The 3-acre park would be the largest in northwest Ohio, he said. It would include a separate area for small dogs and an area containing agility equipment for people who want to train their dogs.
The centerpiece would be Dog Bone Lake, a 106-foot by 40-foot body of water 3 feet deep.
The area also is to include picnic tables, benches inside and outside the fence.
"It is not just for dogs," he said. "This a social environment that people will love to come to."
Hodkinson said the park will draw people from other areas into Tiffin.
"People will come to Tiffin to come to the Bark Park," he said. "I'm not saying it's a great amount, but they buy and they buy food."
He said plans are to open the park by late spring or early summer 2013.
The board meets Dec. 13 at the park office on West Market Street. Members agreed to invite Mayor Aaron Montz to get the city administration's view on park finances and pool director Molly Lofton for her view on funding the city swimming pool next summer.