Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Discussion over fate of park
to resume before school board

Should Elsmere cede title to a cherished spot?

By Andrea Remke
Enquirer staff writer

Mary Lou Neal pleads with the Elsmere City Council to keep Rosella French Park in Elsmere's name during a meeting in which residents addressed their concerns about the proposal to turn the park over to the Erlanger/Elsmere Board of Education.
(Sarah Conard/The Enquirer)
ELSMERE - More than 50 residents packed council chambers Tuesday to ask the city to save Elsmere's smallest but most-used park.

Council started its discussion on a proposal to relinquish Rosella French Porterfield Park to the Erlanger-Elsmere school board at the city building on Garvey Avenue, until it was agreed to move the meeting to the firehouse across the street for more space.

The park was named in 1995 for Porterfield, a retired educator in Erlanger-Elsmere schools, who died Saturday.

Superintendent Michael Sander said the park property has always belonged to the schools, and the board is just trying to finalize paperwork, which is long overdue.

"Before The Reform Act of 1990, (KERA) if you wanted to build anything, you had to turn lien into the city," he said.

"And if you paid your 30-year mortgage, they give it back to you.

"We've paid off the property ... all we're asking is to get the paperwork in order the way it should be."

Sander brought to the meeting a deed from 1941, which he says shows ownership goes to the school board.

In addition, Sander said the board owns the building that Northern Kentucky Head Start occupies next door, and leases it to Head Start for $1 per year.

Some council members and residents wanted to know why the school board is bringing the issue up now, especially after years of city money paid into park improvements.

"The city and parks board have put over $40,000 of improvements into that park," said council member Terry Whittaker. "Why are we giving away property that may not be someone else's?"

"The park board doesn't want to put any more money into a piece of property that isn't theirs," said council member Neva Collins.

Resident Stacy Carter said the park is a historic site for the community.

"This is the black community's outlet to nourish our community," she said.

Carter asked Sander to do something tangible so that residents know nothing will happen to their park.

"Why not let us have a five-year lease to buy it?" Carter asked.

Sander said that no offers from the city have been brought to the school board's attention.

"We work well with the cities of Erlanger and Elsmere," he said. "Nobody wants to do anything with that park."

Sander said a state-mandated facility plan, or blueprint of construction in the school district for the next four years, does not list the park as a priority.

Porterfield's son, David French, of Walton, said he hopes the board and the city can come up with a solution.

"I hope the board would respect my mother enough to keep the park," he said.

The park board held a rededication ceremony of the park in July 2002, at which Porterfield was honored with a bronze plaque.

Council was still hearing from residents two hours after the meeting. Whittaker said council was not expected to vote Tuesday. Some members and residents said they would attend the school board's next meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, at the board of education, 500 Graves Ave., to further discuss the park.


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