By Caitlin Switzer
MONTROSE-For years, a crowning glory of Montrose has been the City’s system of well-maintained public parks and trails. In total, the City of Montrose boasts on its web site of maintaining 29 developed parks, 118 acres of open space and more than 30 miles of concrete trails.
Helping to administer and care for parks over the past 16 years has been the volunteer Montrose Parks Advisory Board (PAB), which is charged with advising City Council and other boards as to capital funding issues, future and immediate park-related projects, land acquisition for parks, modifications to recreation facilities and open space projects. According to the City of Montrose web site, the Montrose Parks Advisory Board also serves as the City’s Tree Board, “providing guidance for planting, maintaining, and removing trees in parks and other public places.”
The volunteer board—which still includes a number of the original members—has served as a liaison between the community and City Council, and performed tasks that Council did not have time to do. Board members have been selected through an application process that adhered to the guidelines originally set forth by Council.
“The process has been a success until recently,” said Parks Advisory Board Chair Marge Morgenstern, who has served on the board from its inception.
However, Morgenstern said that she was caught off guard at the PAB meeting of Dec. 8, when the first item listed on the meeting agenda was the resignation of longtime City Parks Supervisor Thordy Jacobson.
“(Former City Park Planner) Dennis Erickson was our mentor,” Morgenstern said, “and Thordy worked very closely with us.
“There is a tree,” she recalled, “near Hillcrest and South 12th Street, planted with money donated by people in town when my mother died, and every year I buy ornaments to for it. Over the years people have started bringing me ornaments to store for the season ahead…and when it was time, Thordy would always put them up for the community to see and enjoy.”
Morgenstern said she was also surprised recently to find that a longtime public works administrative assistant was also no longer on the job.
“There is no secretary at Public Works, so they are scrambling to find message pads, and answer phones,” she said. “The City Manager has way too much power; he can hire and fire with impunity, and he is cutting costs everywhere except his own salary.”
Morgenstern details in a letter to City Council (See Mirror Op/Ed pg) what happened when members of the Parks Advisory Council began to question Bell about Jacobson’s departure.
“As questioning proceeded, the City Manager became defensive and autocratic; when that atmosphere developed the discussion and queries stopped,” Morgenstern wrote. “The City Manager mandated to Sharon Dunning, secretary, that none of the questions, discussion nor commentary in re: Thordy Jacobson would be included in the minutes because none of the Parks Advisory Board’s commentary was relevant nor true, and, as mandated by the City Manager, none of that segment appeared in those minutes when presented at the subsequent January/2015 Parks’ Board meeting. I had the feeling at the end of the December meeting that City Manager would move to eliminate the Montrose Parks Advisory Board and he did.”
Though an agenda is posted on the City’s web site for the PAB meeting of Jan. 12, none is posted for the board’s final meeting of Feb. 9.
That’s because on Feb. 5, Bell acted to dissolve the Parks Advisory Board.
“I got a letter from him that began ‘Dear Marjorie,’” Morgenstern said, “saying that he had opted to dissolve the Parks board immediately.”
PAB Member Wayne Quade, who has also served on the board since its inception, said that he hopes to negotiate with the City to instead “reinvigorate” the Parks Advisory Board.
“I am trying not to be critical,” Quade said, “But as a community we SHOULD be soliciting citizen input, and we don’t want to be a rubber stamp for City staff.
“I hope we can negotiate something and move forward.”
Though minutes of PAB meetings are consistent through Nov. of 2014, no minutes are posted in the City’s documents archive for meetings that follow.