The Smithville Aldermen Monday night approved a request for a group to place a labyrinth in Greenbrook Park that the public may use for personal reflection and meditation.
A labyrinth provides a walking path which leads to the center of an intricate spiral design and back out again. The labyrinth is often used to facilitate prayer, meditation, and spiritual transformation.
Betsy Driver addressed the mayor and aldermen Monday night asking for approval to place the labyrinth in the park.. "A labyrinth is essentially a prayer circle. It's a place where somebody can go to and take fifteen, thirty minutes, or an hour out of their day and seek an answer to maybe whatever it is they're looking for. To take time out and walk a path. When you start in that path, it goes around a large circle and then it intertwines back and forth until you meet in the center and then from that point, you walk back out of it in the same direction you came in. When we begin this project, we intend to include groups from the county locally to help get this project off the ground. We hope that whether it's the suicide awareness groups, people who would be from the cancer walk group, they could use it during their time there by placing candles perhaps in remembrance of those who have passed on."
Mark Pafford, a local minister who also supports the project, said a labyrinth can also be therapeutic. "It would be large enough to have a walking path in that spiral pattern. I have worked with many groups who use a labyrinth in a therapeutic setting. As a chaplain resident at the V.A., I used it with the V.A. patients and substance abuse patients at the V.A. in Murfreesboro to great benefit as well as behavioral health patients and geriatric patients to assist them. It's not only a therapeutic thing but it's a prayer space. A place for reflection and a place to retreat. Greenbrook Park offers a wonderful setting and venue for this piece. I think it would be a wonderful addition to that public space there."
Driver added that the city would not have to maintain it. "There will be no maintenance to it. We will be the ones to maintain it. Outside the actual labyrinth itself, we've given about seven feet of area that will be a garden that we'll plant just a few trees, evergreens, and ornamental trees and that space would be very easy for our maintenance crew to literally circle around. They'll not have to enter that space at all."
Driver said the Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club, who oversee activities in Greenbrook Park, has given it's blessing for the labyrinth.
Again, the aldermen approved the request but city officials want some input on where it is to be located in the park.
In other business, the aldermen voted to dip into the general fund surplus again by increasing it's annual contribution to the Chamber of Commerce.
The city annually budgets $5,000 for the chamber but Chamber Director Suzanne Williams says the chamber needs a little extra money to help them get by and asked for an additional $5,000 per year. "The Chamber struggles every year (financially). We've got a bare bones budget. We don't have an extravagant amount of money we spend on anything. It's mostly for utilities and rent. We don't have high salaries. I have a part time secretary. This year has been particularly difficult because of the economic downturn and other things. At one point, I didn't know how we were going to get through the end of October."
" I spoke to the county commission to let them know our situation. As I told them outside of our fundraisers and our membership, we still need an extra $30,000 just to make our budget. The county commission voted to increase their annual funding from $10,000 to $20,000 and they asked that I come and speak to the city and see if you would increase yours from $5,000 to $10,000.'
"Out of the fourteen Upper Cumberland counties, we have the third highest tourism dollars. We bring in like $35 million in tourism dollars and we're one of the lowest funded chambers in the region. We know that Smithville does benefit significantly from tourism dollars and I hope that you would see the many benefits the chamber brings and provides for the city. I think if you had to open your own welcome center, just hiring one employee would probably be $20,000 not to mention all the other things that's involved with that. But I would ask that you consider amending your budget and adding an extra $5,000 to your annual contribution to the chamber."
The budget year for the chamber of commerce runs from January to December and the fiscal year for the city is from July 1st , 2010 to June 30th, 2011. Alderman Steve White made a motion to amend the budget and add $2,500 to the line item for the chamber this budget year making their total appropriation $7,500 for the fiscal year through June 30th, 2011 and then budget a total of $10,000 in next year's budget, which begins July 1st, 2011. The motion was adopted unanimously.
City employee Jimmy Taylor asked the mayor and aldermen if he could donate five of his sick days to a co-worker whose wife is in the hospital with a serious illness. Taylor says this employee has exhausted his own sick days and needs to be with his wife. The aldermen approved the request, provided it is legal for the city to do so. Officials will check with the city's financial consultant Janice Plemmons-Jackson and possibly the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) to make sure.