MURRAY – The City of Murray Temporary Park Committee on Monday received an update on swimming pool renovations, listened to a report on the success of December’s Christmas lights display and discussed security measures for the park.

City Administrator Jim Osborne provided an update on the upcoming swimming pool renovations in Central Park. The Murray City Council voted in December to accept a $894,600 bid from Steele & Allbritten for the work, and Osborne said donations are still coming in for the project. Although Osborne did not discuss specifics during the meeting, he told the Ledger & Times on Tuesday that $1,338,283 in donations had been pledged to go toward the project so far. As of Monday, the city had received $738,283 in donations. Another $250,000 has been pledged for 2022, and $350,000 has been pledged to be paid to the city between 2023 and 2029.                                       

“The large donations are what is going to make the project happen, and the other donations are what’s going to get us over the finish line so we can get ready and get things the way we’d like them out there,” Osborne said. “We have met with the contractor and they are getting things ready to begin. The lighting person came out last week and they have marked where the poles are going. I believe they’re just waiting for the equipment … and they’re ready to begin. Things are looking good on both those projects right now.”

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Each year during The Murray Bank Festival of Lights/Christmas in the Park, members of the public are asked to either contribute a donation of non-perishable foods for Murray-Calloway County Need Line or to give a monetary donation before entering Central Park to view the displays. Ryan Yates, director of Murray-Calloway Parks and Recreation, told the park committee that the department brought in $19,468 in revenue at the gate this year. He said the parks also collected $17,505.50 in display renewals, meaning businesses and organizations sponsoring light displays paid the parks department to store and maintain the displays for another year.

Yates said the department sold $9,667 worth of new display sponsorships to businesses and organizations, the title sponsorship from The Murray Bank netted $7,500. The cost of maintenance and repairs to the displays was $14,863.27, and the cost of the displays themselves was $18,631.27. He added that a portion of that money was spent in the 2020-21 fiscal year to prepare for Christmas 2021.

After committee member Jeremy Bell asked, Yates said the maintenance cost and repairs total included the cost of sending some displays to Florida to have their incandescent bulbs replaced with LED lights. Bell – who, along with Linda Cherry and Rose Ross Elder, served on the previous city-county park board before the City of Murray took control in September – explained to newer committee members that the park does not purchase a new display unless someone has sponsored it first.

“We (set that policy) many years ago because we had somebody that decided they wanted to go out and buy a bunch of displays without having any sponsors, but we said, at the time, that nobody’s getting a display unless they pay for it first,” Bell said. “So (Yates) is not ordering any displays until somebody comes in his office and says, ‘I want this display. I’ll pay for this display.’”

Bell added that he was proud to have been on the park board around the time the light display started and to have been able to watch it grow into one of the best displays in the area. Cherry said she noticed license plates this year from Marshall and other Kentucky counties, as well as counties in Tennessee.

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Osborne talked about security for the parks, saying that for the first time, no vandalism was reported to the Festival of Lights. He said the Murray Police Department would continue to patrol the parks moving forward.

The committee voted to have Osborne send personnel to inspect all park facilities and compile an updated list of maintenance needs. The committee also briefly discussed plans to install wi-fi throughout the park at some point in the future.

The committee also voted to approve a new list of policies and procedures for park employees now that the city is in control of the parks. During a related discussion on future budgets and employee pay, Osborne said the committee – or future permanent committee – would not necessarily have to apply the same salary structure and benefits as already existing city employees. Bell said it was helpful that when the city took control of the park system in the fall, the previous park board had already established its 2021-22 budget, so that gives the city a few months to decide how salaries will work going forward, as well as other budget issues.