By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Growth, expansion and an increase in visitors are leading Clinton County Conservation to seek nearly $1.4 million for fiscal year 2014.
New equipment and improving facilities were top priorities for the board as it presented its budget to the Clinton County Board of Supervisors on Monday.
“It has been a fantastic year at all of the parks,” Executive Director Walt Wickham said. “We are seeing more people staying closer to home.”
Several revenue and expenditure budget items have shown an increase with the parks attracting many visitors.
Electricity is up, due to more campers using the campgrounds, and admission fee revenue was up as well.
The board is requesting a total of $1,389,454, which is a $194,038 increase over the current fiscal year of $1,195,416.
Most of the budget increase was under the new machinery line item totaling $173,000. The board intends to purchase two skid loaders, two pickup trucks, a dump truck, a trencher attachment for skid loaders, a bat wing mower and a salt/sand spreader.
“A reliable equipment and vehicle fleet is critical to the smooth operation of our department,” Wickham said.
The board also requested that Park Officer Brad Taylor now be paid from Conservation funds instead of Rock Creek Marina and Campground funds.
“Our reasoning for this is that the position is East District Ranger, not Rock Creek Ranger,” Wickham said. “His duties cover several parks and wildlife areas in the eastern half of the county. This will also allow us to operate Rock Creek on more stable footing.”
Staff upgrading from cell phones to smart phones led to an increase in the telephone budget, bringing it to $12,000. Postage also increased to $3,100 as the newsletter will go from four to six issues a year.
Other increases include park development and park supplies for ADA compliance improvements for handicap playground equipment. The plan is to update one playground a year for $20,000 each. There are seven playgrounds total.
The environmental education fund increased from $15,000 to $18,000, due to equipment and displays. In particular, the board is working toward obtaining interpretive displays to complete the interactive exhibit at the Mississippi River Eco Tourism Center this summer.
For the most part, the increase in expenses is inevitable.
While the current supervisors have showed continued support for the conservation efforts the past few years, there is still uncertainty on how far they can stretch the budget and what items will have to be put on hold.
“The only shaving of the budget we can do is in the equipment,” Supervisor Brian Schmidt said.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a budget work session Friday at 1 p.m. at the County Administration Building.