The Sebastian County Parks Advisory Board moved forward on a possible opportunity to acquire more funding for projects at Ben Geren Park.
The board at its regular meeting Monday approved a motion to ask Park Partners to amend its bylaws to allow residents to donate to pay for projects in the park. Sebastian County Judge David Hudson said Park Partners is a nonprofit organization formed to help improve parks through tax deductible donations.
"We'll get a legal opinion that basically authorizes us to move forward with this, that the money would be handled through the 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization," Hudson said. "It wouldn't be appropriated by the county. There shouldn't be an issue with that, but just for coordinating purposes, we'll get a legal review of this."
Board member Mike Thames said for some time, the board wanted some sort of vehicle where residents could donate to a project in Ben Geren Regional Park and get a tax deduction. He had an informal query with the president of Park Partners, Mike Smets, about three months ago and asked him about the potential for such an arrangement.
"... He's gotten back to his board, and their bylaws actually said that because Ben Geren was not in the city limits and was not a city of Fort Smith park, that it wasn't eligible," Thames said. "But he just decreed that the city of Fort Smith now surrounds Ben Geren Park, and their present board is on board with allowing Ben Geren to establish a line and an account," Thames said.
Thames said if the board had a special project it believed it could get people to donate to, the board would tell Park Partners to set up a line.
"The money is held at First National Bank, and people would donate to Park Partners/Ben Geren Park project, and it would just go into an account," Thames said.
The money in that account, Thames said, would be used to pay for the project.
"There are some criteria that have to be met ... but I don't see a big problem in doing it," Thames said.
Thames said the board would like to put in a wheelchair swing at the playground at Ben Geren.
"... I'm not sure how their board's going to respond, but ... I will make a formal overture now to the Park Partners board, and let them formally bring Ben Geren into their projects," Thames said.