The Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers Association board of directors has requested the deed ownership of McMillan Park, along with its city-owned buildings, from the City of Mt. Pleasant.
In a letter dated Feb. 13, 2019, the Old Threshers board of directors proposed city officials put a referendum on the November ballot for the city to give the park to Old Threshers.
This is the first time Old Threshers has asked the city for McMillan Park, Mayor Steve Brimhall said.
The city received the letter on March 19. They held a work session at City Hall, which included discussing McMillan Park. No decisions were made, and the council has not met again to discuss it. The park sits between South Walnut Street and South Locust Street in Mt. Pleasant.
“Council members discussed the options of transfer (of McMillan Park) if that’s what they intend to do,” Brimhall said. “No further action or decisions were made. We were kind of going home to think about it. No further meeting is set to discuss it.”
During the work session, Brimhall said one of the main things discussed was access to the road going through McMillan Park.
“If it was in private ownership, would that road stay open?” Brimhall said. “Or would the city have some agreement written ahead of time that the road had to be left open? There were so many little things discussed about what happens if this or that happens.
“Once someone says they want to own McMillan Park, there are a lot of ramifications and there’s a ton of stuff to think and talk about,” Brimhall continued.
Brimhall said that the legal aspect of transferring the ownership of city-owned property is something being investigated by the City of Mt. Pleasant’s attorneys.
Terry McWilliams, CEO of Old Threshers and a member of the Mt. Pleasant City Council, said asking the city for McMillan Park is an idea Old Threshers has been discussing for years. They decided now would be a good time to ask.
McWilliams said McMillan Park would be a place for Old Threshers to expand down the road such as building a climate-controlled events center.
“That’s a big dream. You never know when reality could strike,” McWilliams said.
McMillan Park is used by the Henry County Fair, Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, Access Energy’s annual meeting, the Fourth of July and other events.
The city owns several buildings in McMillan Park with the help of their partners. The Henry County Fair built several buildings and donated them to the city, although they own the ticket booth. The Fair does not pay the city rent for use of McMillan Park for one week before the fair, the week of the fair and an additional time of the year, Brimhall said.
Old Threshers also does not pay rent for the use of McMillan Park because they have built several buildings on city property, Brimhall said. They do pay $1,500 for use of the grandstand during the Old Threshers Reunion.
McWilliams said if Old Threshers gets the deed to McMillan Park, nothing would change with their partners.
“The other folks who use the park — nothing will change. It all stays the same,” McWilliams said.
Transferring the ownership of McMillan Park from the city to Old Threshers would save taxpayer money, McWilliams said.
“The city has an expense every year for upkeeping McMillan Park. This would be a savings to the taxpayers and the city,” McWilliams said.
The Old Threshers board of directors have outlined the cost of what it would take for Old Threshers to upkeep McMillan Park, and McWilliams said they wouldn’t ask for it if it wasn’t something the Association could afford.
McWilliams said placing the referendum on the November ballot is “the only fair way to do it.”
“The Association agrees it’s a fair way to do it because that lets the citizens decide,” McWilliams said. “It’s the citizens’ tax dollars that pay to keep up the park, and they should get the opportunity to make the decision.”
In the letter from the Old Threshers board of directors to the city, The Association also outlines three other options for transferring the deed of McMillan Park.
The first is that the city gives McMillan Park and the buildings to Old Threshers while “risking citizen’s limited disapproval.” The second option was that the city sells McMillan Park to Old Threshers for $1. And the third option was the city pays for a fair market value appraisal and sells the park to Old Threshers for that amount, “which would be outside the financial abilities of the organization,” the letter stated.
McWilliams said if the item is brought to the council for a vote, he will abstain because it could be construed as a conflict of interest.
McMillan Park was originally owned by the Henry County Agricultural Association in the 1930s, which was the organization that ran the Henry County Fair. It was sold at a Sheriff’s sale in 1937 after the Agricultural Association went bankrupt and was purchased for $7,500 by a private citizen.
The land was then sold to the City of Mt.. Pleasant for $6,000 in 1939, and the city has owned McMillan Park ever since, Brimhall said.