Hubbard resigns from group developing TOP Trails Park
by Jim Smothers
Sep 19, 2012 | 3301 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA — Danny Hubbard announced his resignation from the Professional Services Group in charge of developing TOP Trails Park at Tuesday morning’s board meeting, and called on board member Ray Miller and chairman Tommy Spears to resign.

Hubbard has been employed as a liaison by C.D. Roberts and Associates, the PSG hired to oversee the project about a year ago. Chuck Roberts, owner of the company, was previously a member of the board. The board had asked the state Ethics Commission about hiring Roberts, and was advised he could be hired, but could not have direct contact with the board. Hubbard has been the go-between.

Hubbard said he had to prepare a defense of himself and the PSG when he came to meetings with the board.

“I feel like we’ve gotten into a situation where it’s been almost a gripe session,” he said, in contrast to a business meeting.

Hubbard said he and Roberts started working toward the development of the park in 2006, and saw the park authority established in 2010.

“It’s like a start-up company. I feel like we’ve got a lot accomplished.”

He said all he had gotten was complaints, without a mention of $1.2 million in grants the board has received through grants he wrote.

He accused Miller of threatening his position and making accusations and snide remarks.

Hubbard said Spears and Miller had been detrimental to the board and said, “I think you should resign from your positions.”

Hubbard said in the past eight to 10 months, stress had been taking a toll on his health, which led to his decision to resign, effective at the end of the month. Leah Reddick, who was at the meeting, was presented as the new liaison to Roberts. Spears thanked Hubbard for his time and efforts, and he then left the meeting.

Most of the items on the agenda were covered before Hubbard’s announcement, and it was adjourned after setting a work session for 7:30 a.m. Oct. 2, with the next board meeting at 9 a.m. at the Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce building.

After the meeting, Spears said, “The board appreciates the tireless efforts of Danny Hubbard. We recognize he worked a lot of hours and days at no pay, as the board does now. The progress made so far is in large part due to his efforts. We’ll certainly miss his tireless devotion and expertise in the coming days and months.”

Miller said, “I’m sorry we were not able to communicate better, but I wish him the best and thank him for what he’s done.”

During the old business segment of the meeting, the board covered a number of items.

Hubbard said the Alabama Horse Council had a grant for equestrian trails at the park, and would be seeking approval from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to transfer it to TOP Trails.

Advertisements have been made for bids to complete the Environmental Center, and specifications are on the website. Oct. 2 is the deadline for bids.

The board heard there have been about 35 people at the park on Saturdays, slightly fewer on Sundays and about half that on Fridays. With a $5 entrance fee, the board postponed hiring part-time employees to collect money. Hubbard said that with cooler weather and fewer spider webs on the trails, those numbers would increase for the October-March riding season.

Gary Steed noted that with the current number of riders and the proposed schedule of part-time employees, the park would go in the hole. He suggested continuing to have guards collect entrance fees until the number of park visitors “becomes overwhelming.”

Mack Ferguson suggested postponing fee collections until more amenities are available. Spears said the park was “giving away money” by not collecting fees, and Joey Cooper added that paying $5 for access to 2,800 acres seemed like a bargain to him.

Fee collections are set to begin Oct. 1 for each person 12 and older who enters the park.

Members discussed a recent demonstration of a mulcher, which they agreed would be a great asset to the park. The decision was made to collect information on other brands before making a purchase. The mulcher head, skid steer and other attachments are expected to cost between $75,000-$125,000.

The board decided to purchase a Kubota off-road work vehicle at a price of $14,682 through the state procurement process, and left open the possibility of buying a second one if needed.

The board authorized the PSG to begin the process of interviewing and collecting resumes for the position of park director, but did not set a date for hiring. The PSG recommends the salary for park director be set at a base salary of $62,000 without benefits.

Cooper suggested getting a CPA to consult with the PSG “to make sure we can afford this.”

Spears said that currently there isn’t much there to manage.

Hubbard urged the board not to wait until all the things planned for the park exist. “We actually budgeted this person from July,” he noted.

Hubbard said the PSG is interested in establishing a program for volunteers to help around the park. It will involve light cleanup work and other duties. Those interested in volunteering should contact C.D. Roberts and Associates (managing entity of the park) at 256-761-0094.

Alabama Shooting Complex project manager Dennis Cotton said visits were increasing on ASC’s website and Facebook page, and noted about 20 percent of the visitors were women. A number of online comments were focused on shooting ranges of 1,000 yards or more. Cotton said the proposed site for the range would be facing north and would minimize wind, which would be ideal shooting conditions.

The board approved asking the Ethics Commission for a waiver to allow the board to have direct communication with Chuck Roberts.

The board approved fees for attending and promoting the park at a trails event to be held at Jacksonville State University in November.

The board accepted a check from Steed for $7,521.23 for timber.

Contact Jim Smothers at jsmothers@dailyhome.com.