At the first meeting of the Neosho City Council this year, council members considered an ordinance to set hours at city parks. Reasons for the proposed change included after hours vandalism, vagrants and homeless people living in the park, and drug use on park property.

"Council, this is being brought before you. Several other departments within the city have voiced their opinion to the parks department, police department over having a time frame of when the park can be inhabited," city manager David Kennedy said.

As written, the ordinance called for city parks to be open thirty minutes after dawn until thirty minutes prior to dusk. During discussion, council members decided that these hours were too rigid and might interfere with citizens' use of the parks. Councilman Carmin Allen pointed out the many local residents enjoy walking in both Big Spring Park and Morse Park, even after dark. Park Superintendent Clint Dalbom stated that solar lighting had been adding to the walking path in Morse Park for that reason.

"If we go down to the park right now, we've got people at Big Spring Park, back there doing whatever, sleeping on the tables," Kennedy told the council. "And there's really nothing we can do."

The ordinance would make trespass charges possible. Other laws, already applicable, would apply to drug use. "it's always the police officer's discretion," Kennedy said.

Dalbom stated that he doesn't want to interfere with legal use of the park by residents. "If someone is using them as one of its designated uses, that's not a problem," Dalbom said. "If it's not a designated use, then we don't have the power (now) to get them out of there."

The council approved the ordinance on first reading. However, on second and third readings, adjusted the wording of the ordinance so that the parks would be closed to midnight to 4 a.m. Those readings will take place at the next regular council meeting on Tuesday, January 21.

The council also approved an ordinance on first reading that will set the same hours for IOOF Cemetery in Neosho. The city became responsible for the cemetery on November 5, 2019. Hours were set the same as the parks, closing the cemetery from midnight to 4 a.m. daily. Fees were also set for the purchase of burial plots and other fees, which are now payable to the city. Other codes, based on cemetery codes in other area cemeteries, were also approved as part of the ordinance. An ongoing effort to provide deeds for numerous graves at IOOF continues as the city determines whether the deeds were filed by purchasers or if deeds were received. The measure is expected to find final approval with the second and third readings on January 21.

In other business, the council also approved necessary roofing repairs on several city properties including The Lampo Center, City Hall and The Civic. The selling of timber from the Neosho Golf Course was approved with money to go toward improvements at the golf course. In visitor business, Elizabeth Rogers appeared to request temporary permission to keep her business, The Bar B Q Joint, on Neosho Boulevard open as zoning and tax issues are resolved. The council granted her two weeks, until the next council meeting, to get everything in order and taxes paid.

The council also gave approval for the city to apply for two grants, one from the National Park Service and the second from People For Bikes Community Grants, to help fund the bicycle trails for Morse Park.

The council will next meet in regular session on Tuesday, January 21 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.