Hernando aldermen review Penny for the Parks alternatives

Members of the Hernando Board of Aldermen Monday took another look at what $12 million could get them for parks and recreation improvements, if voters approve a “Penny for the Parks” plan in a November vote. Aldermen had recessed Tuesday’s regular meeting to Monday night to spend more time reviewing options for the funding. 

City officials estimate $12 million is what Hernando could see coming if 60 percent of the electorate favor their plan. The local and private law that passed the Legislature in the 2022 session is similar to what Southaven has used for a number of years to fund parks and recreation improvements.  

If passed, diners in Hernando restaurants would be assessed an additional penny per dollar spent on their gross tab and the tax would be earmarked for parks and recreation improvements in Hernando. 

Henry Minor of Kimley-Horn presents the four alternatives for Hernando aldermen to consider for a plan. The board must approve a specific plan for parks and recreation improvements to place on a November ballot. Voters must approve the plan and the Penny for the Parks local tax by a 60 percent approval margin. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

The law is also set up so voters will be asked to renew the plan in a vote with each municipal election, beginning in July 2025. An initial approval vote is to be held in November although a date has not been set, as of yet. 

However, Mayor Chip Johnson told aldermen Monday that election cannot be held at the same time as the November general election for Congress. He proposed a special election for the first Tuesday in November, a week before the general election, but a special election date is still to be determined.  

Whatever the date is for the special election, voters will have a specific plan in front of them they can vote for or against. Monday night, aldermen heard and discussed four different options provided by Henry Minor and Cameron Cooper of Kimley-Horn, a planning and design consultant firm from Memphis.  

Minor first provided the results of an aldermen survey listing their priorities in a plan to present to voters. 

Tops on the list were U-10 and older baseball and softball, followed by U-8 baseball/softball. Tied for third among board priorities were basketball courts, tennis/pickleball courts, and field renovations to Milton Kuykendall Park.  The improvements all centered on Renasant Park, except for the Kuykendall Park improvements.  

Armed with the survey results, Minor and Cooper presented four options, all with a $12 million budget, for the board to consider.  

Following are highlights of each of the four options: 

Alternative A – at Renasant Park

  • 4 U-8 baseball fields
  • 4 U-8 softball fields
  • 1 Concessions building
  • 3 basketball courts with parking lot and lighting
  • Access from U-8 baseball parking lot to Robertson Gin Road only (*must purchase Civic Center property)

Outside of Renasant Park

  • Kuykendall Field improvements only (no fencing)
  • Soccer lighting for Phase 2 fields

Alternative B – at Renasant Park

  • 4 U-8 baseball fields
  • 4 U-8 softball fields
  • 1 Concessions building
  • 3 basketball courts with parking lot and lighting in the original location
  • Additional parking lot (parking lot D)
  • Access from U-8 baseball parking lot to U.S. Highway 51 only (*do not need to purchase Civic Center property)

Outside of Renasant Park

  • Kuykendall field improvements only (no fencing)
  • No soccer field improvements

Alternative C – at Renasant Park

  • 4 U-8 baseball fields
  • 2 U-8 softball fields
  • 1 Concession building
  • 3 basketball courts with parking lot and lighting at original location
  • Tennis facility with pavilion and lighting, Parking lot D only (no pickleball)
  • Access from U-8 baseball parking to U.S. Highway 51 only (* do not need to purchase Civic Center property)

Outside of Renasant Park

  • Kuykendall Park field improvements only (no fencing)

Alternative D – at Renasant Park

  • 4 U-8 baseball fields
  • 1 Play area
  • 1 Concessions building
  • 3 basketball courts with parking lot and lighting in original location
  • 6 tennis courts – lighting, parking, and pavilion included 
  • 8 pickleball courts
  • Disc golf course
  • Access from U-8 baseball parking lot to U.S Highway 51 only (*do not need to purchase Civic Center property)

Outside of Renasant Park

  • Kuykendall field improvements only (no fencing)
  • Soccer lighting for Phase 2 fields

After hearing about all of the alternatives, aldermen appeared to lean more toward Alternative D with some components of Alternative C “mixed in.” They also asked Minor and Cooper to include access through Renasant Park between Highway 51 and Robertson Gin, stating it was important to them that there be two access points available. 

“I think it is important that the road has to go all of the way from Highway 51 to Robertson Gin,” Mayor Chip Johnson said after the meeting. “It just has to go all of the way through, that is just paramount.”

Alderman Andrew Miller did suggest that some of the lighting components, such as lighting tennis courts, may not have to happen immediately but could be added at a future time. 

It appears the alternatives are all a bit more palatable from initial discussions, according to Johnson. 

“The impression two weeks ago when we held the other meeting was that we were stunned by the price tag of the overall plan,” Johnson said. “One of the options gave something to almost every group that would want to participate in parks and rec in any age group,” referring to Alternative D. “I think they’re going to redraw it and come back to us in a couple of weeks with something we will be a lot closer to adopting.”

Johnson also hopes more citizens will come to the next discussion, noting only three residents were at Monday evening’s session.  

“We had great input from the citizens tonight that may have changed our minds on a couple of things,” Johnson said. “The more citizen input, the better product we’re going to end up with.”  

At the next session, the Kimley-Horn representatives are to bring more specific pricing information and a breakdown of the components for their alternatives.  

“Everybody really needs to pay attention to what the board is doing and how they are making their decisions based on different price points,” Johnson said.  “There will be an exact plan on the ballot.” 

The proposals do not require the elimination of the current ball diamonds, Johnson said. 

Monday’s meeting was streamed on the City of Hernando’s YouTube channel and may be viewed here:

Bob Bakken

Bob Bakken is the most recognized and most trusted name in DeSoto County news and sports reporting, as readers continue to express their appreciation for his accuracy and fairness in the stories he writes. Bob provides content for DeSoto County News and occasionally is heard on the OB Pod podcast talking about area happenings. A former newspaper editor and writer, his award-winning background also includes television news producing, sports media relations, and radio broadcasting.

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