County ponders city’s request

Jun. 02, 2014 @ 06:59 PM

The Vance County likely will not take over management of the Henderson-Vance County Recreation and Parks Department.

An ad-hoc committee of commissioners Terry Garrison, Gordon Wilder and Dan Brummitt, County Manager Jerry Ayscue and finance staff met Monday and said staffing, maintenance and money were the biggest concerns when deciding whether to take over operations.

“I wish we could, but we can’t do it all,” Garrison said. “How logical is that when you can’t really deliver adequate services for what you are currently responsible for and then to take on something new and find some additionally cost. It just doesn’t really add up.”

Chairwoman Deborah Brown appointed the committee at the board’s May meeting after the Henderson City Council proposed the county take over primary responsibility of the jointly administered recreation and parks department, which would involve contributing 55 percent of the department’s funds. Currently, the county is responsible for 45 percent, while the city pays the greater sum.

The committee is gathering information about the department’s finances and operations to bring back to the full board with a recommendation.

Ayscue said the revised cost to the county would likely be $125,000, but Brummitt said they should not go forward with the proposal if they could not improve on what’s already offered.

“This current proposal we need to look at and see what changes that can be made to make this successful because the way I see here is that we are changing captains on a sinking ship,” he said.

Brummitt said he walked to some of the recreation areas and felt more workers needed to be added.

During the meeting, the committee was divided on how to do that, considering the city does not have the funds to do it.

According to Ayscue, there are 14 positions in the recreation and parks budget to serve the 19 facilities the department operates. Two positions have been frozen.

Brummitt said the building and grounds crew at Aycock Recreation Center works for about four hours in the morning, leaving trash to collect throughout the day.

“The immediate need would be to have a full-time maintenance person in the Aycock facility to keep it clean on a regular basis rather than letting trash build up,” he said. “At Fox Pond Park, there is a lot of open space that requires mowing and maintenance, and there needs to be some sort of security there.”

Members of the committee expressed concerns about how much money upgrades and additional staffing would cost.

“I find it difficult for me to consider this and consider the total budget that we are working on for next year that is to include county employee pay increases,” Garrison said. “In order to do that, I would probably not be in support of adding positions.”

Garrison said additional funding for the recreation center would have to be found in order to make it better.

“If we can find it and improve it and maintain it, then OK,” he said.

Commissioners asked Ayscue to itemize the costs for increased maintenance and staffing and to look into finding additional funds, such as donations and grants that could be earmarked specifically for the department.

The committee agreed to convene again Thursday to look over staff’s findings before that night’s budget work session.

If the board approves the swap in funding and adds it to the budget, the county would take over 55 percent of the cost of recreation and parks during the next fiscal year and 60 percent the following year.

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.