Rolla taxpayers are invited to a public hearing June 19 to tell city officials what they think about a preliminary master plan for Buehler Park.
“What are we going to do with that facility that has been under-invested in for many years?” Mayor Lou Magdits IV asked.

Rolla taxpayers are invited to a public hearing June 19 to tell city officials what they think about a preliminary master plan for Buehler Park.
“What are we going to do with that facility that has been under-invested in for many years?” Mayor Lou Magdits IV asked.
He posed that question after pointing out that traffic going past Buehler Park will increase over the next few years with the extension of Missouri 72 out to a point near the park, along with the construction of a shopping center across the interstate from that site, as well as a plan to divert traffic from U.S. 63 to the interstate in that direction.
The mayor said the city staff and the parks and recreation advisory boards have been wrangling with a master plan for several months. Although that basic plan for improvements has been formulated--the mayor described it as a road map, apparently indicating that direction could be changed at any time--the council will have to vote on each spending package as they come up over the next few years.
“What we’re looking for in two weeks is your blessing” on the whole concept, the mayor said. That blessing, or vote, could come in two weeks, following a public hearing, or it could take place at the first July meeting, scheduled for July 3, but likely to change because it is sandwiched between the weekend and the Independence Day holiday on Tuesday, July 4.
Floyd Jernigan, Rolla parks and recreation director, presented the specifics of the plan.
First, the renovations and their current price tags:
* New playground set or pieces, retaining the dinosaur theme and the existing trees as much as possible): $70,000-$90,000.
* Bathroom: $50,000.
* Water line: $3,000.
* Pavilion electric upgrade: $3,000.
* Fence along Kingshighway: $8,000.
* Parking lot overlay ($35,000 plus 415,000 for additional parking.
* Walway trail around the park perimeter: $40,000
* New parks signage (stone), $4,500
* Parking lot directional,$1,500
* Replace civic club sign (depending on clubs’ donations)
* Pavilion renovation (new paint, etc.): $4,000:
* Security lighting: $1,000.
The time line as laid out by Jernigan:
* Phase 1: Water, sewer line improvements, parking paved, this summer, already budgeted.
* Phase 2: Restroom, pavilion upgrade: summer 2018
Phase 3 playground: summer 2019.
* Phase 4: Signage, security lighting, fencing, summer 2020 or later, depending on completion of Highway 72 extension.
* Phase 5: Walkway trail, summer 2021.
Now, here’s the potentially controversial part of the plan: It includes a dog park, about a half-acre of the park  in the back, in what park supporters call “the meadow.”
Jernigan said the dog park would be fenced from the rest of the park and it would be fenced into three parts, an area for small dogs, an area for large dogs and an area in between that would be a rotation area. From time to time, as the need arises, either the large dog area or the small dog area would be shut off and the dogs would use the rotation area while the designated area recovers.
Jernigan said the dog park would be completed when the private group finishes the financing for its construction. That group will continue to pay for maintenance costs of the dog park, at least for the fencing, and the city and volunteers will help with the labor.
Although he presented it, the plan is not solely Jernigan’s. Work on it started over a year ago with a staff review of parks needs in April and May 2016. An open house was held in June last year to give the local residents a chance to see photos of the degraded condition of the park equipment. The residents also were invited to write on cards their desires for the parks.
In August, the city came up with a list of 14 possible dog park locations. That list was narrowed to seven in October. Also in October,  the Parks Advisory Commission heard presentations from the public and the city staff about Buehler Park and a dog park.
The Parks Advisory Commission talked about these issues again in January. Then in February, another open house for public comment was held.
At its March meeting, the Parks Advisory Commission reviewed the open house comments and talked about options.
Finally, on April 12, the Parks Advisory Commission met at Buehler Park for a walk-through and question-and-answer session with the staff.
There were some questions Monday night.
Fifth Ward Councilman Brian Woolley asked if the park is large enough to warrant a walking trail.
Jernigan said more walking trails ranked No. 4 in the comments from the public at the open houses, He said the walking trail is at the end of the timeline, and the council could change course if it found that a walking trail indeed was out of place there.
Councilman David Schott, Ward 3, indicated his concern that the dog park would be used more by outsiders than by local people. These outsiders, he said, would be travelers stopping in Rolla to rest, eat, stretch, perhaps let the dogs run and use the walking trail themselves.
The other Ward 3 council representative, Kelly Long, said if the concern about outsiders using the dog park is used as an argument against it, spending on the entire park might be in jeopardy, for the same argument of outsiders’ use could be made for the pavilions, the playground and the hoped-for restroom.
In response to a question from Matthew Crowell, Ward 2, Jernigan noted that with the Missouri 72 extension, there will be a reconfiguration of Kingshighway in front of the park, a change that will result in about half an acre of land going to the park, about the same as the size of the area the dog park would take on the other side of the park.
Crowell said it sounded like there would be no loss of land with the construction of the dog park, and there would be no loss of public funds on the construction of the dog park if it is paid for by the private fundraising group.
Councilman J.D. Williams asked about the site on Lions Club Drive next to where the new Rolla Animal Shelter is said to be going.
Mayor Magdits said that if the dog park is built there, it is highly likely it will have to be done with city taxpayers’ dollars. Moreover, he said, as yet there is no funding for a new Rolla Animal Shelter.
There was some more back-and-forth on that topic, and by the time the discussion was over, the question seemed to be framed this way: Which would Rolla residents prefer: 1.)  a dog park in Buehler Park, paid for and maintained by a local support group with private funds or 2.) a dog park on Lions Club Drive next to the as-yet-non-existent new animal shelter, paid for with thousands of taxpayer dollars?
Voters, taxpayers and residents have an opportunity to contact their council representatives before the June 21 meeting. They also have an opportunity to talk to the council at the public hearing on that night.
One who will speak against the dog park is Tom Sager, a Buehler Park supporter who has invested much time and money in that park facility. He said after the council meeting that he favors a restroom, water line, parking, a fence to protect children from traffic and even a walking trail. What he does not support is a dog park at Buehler Park.
He opposes fencing anywhere but on the perimeter. He opposes having a dog park in proximity to children’s playground, for fear a dog could get out and hurt a child.
Kent Bagnall, the driving force behind the fund-raising for the dog park, presented  a case last year to the council for a dog park at Buehler Park. He attended the meeting Monday night and indicated he would be present for the public hearing. He left after Jernigan’s presentation, and was not available for comment after the meeting.