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St. John Town Council narrowly votes to disband park board

screenshot from Town of St. John, Indiana YouTube video
Dozens gathered as the St. John Town Council voted on the fate of the town's park board during a special council meeting Apr. 18.

The fight for control over the St. John Parks Department continued Monday. The town council voted three-to-two to disband the town's park board, with Michael Schilling and Wayne Pondinas opposing.

Pondinas argued that any disruption in the department wasn't the park board's fault but was caused by the council's decision to remove him as park liaison. He also refuted Council President Gerald Swets' claims last week that the park board had "become an embarrassment."

"How to we function as a town council? That park board functions better than we do — way better than we do. You said in your speech in what you read that [the park board is] a laughingstock. . . . We're the laughingstock of this community. They know what they're doing," Pondinas said, drawing applause from the audience.

The ordinance passed Monday replaces the St. John Park Board with a five-member advisory council with no direct authority. Instead, the next park superintendent would answer directly to the town manager and the town council. Proponents say it's a way to bring parks and recreation in line with other town departments and ensure accountability to taxpayers.

The park superintendent's position is currently vacant, after Tyler McLead left to take over as Chesterton's park superintendent.