A proposal to lease and manage Joplin's baseball fields, including Joe Becker Stadium, failed as an emergency item during Monday's meeting of the Joplin City Council. The proposal's failure as an emergency item means that it will return as a regular item during a future council meeting.
The lease, proposed by Parkwood Tournament Co., earned a vote of 5-4, with council members Chuck Copple, Christina Williams, Diane Reid Adams and Anthony Monteleone voting against it. Because emergency ordinances require a supermajority of the council, the vote failed.
That means those who voted against the measure and those who spoke against the proposal get what they wanted: time to talk it out.
The lease is similar to past agreements the city has had with two professional baseball groups, both of which failed. Parkwood, composed of principals Mike Greninger, Bobby Landis and Don Patty, proposed to schedule and collect fees for the use of the stadium as well as well as Wendell Redden Stadium, Gabby Street Field and Bassman Softball Complex.
But the speed of which the proposal surfaced shook some council members and members of the Joplin Sports Authority, which also books baseball tournaments for city fields. Members of the authority asked for the council to table the motion in order to allow their own board to digest the proposal.
The contract requires Parkwood to cooperate in providing dates for current users such as the Joplin Sports Authority and Outlaw baseball as well as staging the company's own events. The city would be paid $55,000, split into monthly payments of $6,111.11, from February through October with use extending from February to November.
Parkwood officials said they intended to pay the lease payment upfront to show that they were serious about their end of the agreement and that they would work with the Joplin Sports Authority and Joplin Outlaws to book events.
"Nothing upsets me more than how much (taxpayers) spend on that stadium, and it's empty," Greninger said during the meeting. "We are going to work with anybody and everybody."
Parkwood officials had asked for the emergency status so that they could begin work on scheduling tournaments.
In presenting the idea, Parks and Recreation Director Paul Bloomberg said that the proposal would generate guaranteed revenue, reduce seasonal overtime of parks employees and allow for employees to be reassigned to other needs within the department. Finance Director Leslie Haase said that approval would soften annual financial losses by about $27,000 and through the employee reassignments have a net positive benefit of about $57,000.
While not opposing the principle, Joplin Sports Authority members did not appreciate what they felt was a surprise factor for the proposal. The authority is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that receives revenues from a hotel-motel tax, which it uses to attract and promote sporting events in Joplin.
"We have concerns that if this goes through, then business would change," board member Roger Dorman said. "We make a good return on investment, and we want to continue to do so. With this, we want more time to digest it a bit so we can make a better decision."
Members of the council attempted other delays before the actual vote. Copple, who is also a city-appointed member of the authority's board, made a motion to remove the emergency clause and treat it as a regular agenda item. That motion failed for lack of a second.
After discussion, Monteleone made a motion to table the proposal, bringing it back with the emergency clause during a future meeting. That motion failed 5-4 along the same voting lines as the final motion to approve the proposal.
The failure to pass the proposal with an emergency clause now means the next time it appears before the council, it will require a first, second and third reading for approval — a process that stretches out over two meetings.
In other meeting business, the council approved its budget for fiscal year 2021, which projects $134,100,558 in revenues and $126,272,300 in expenditures. With a separate vote, the council gave final approval to a 9% across-the-board wage increase for city employees, at a cost of $1.1 million.