The Recreation and Parks Commission unanimously voted to recommend the City Council approve a plan that would transfer the maintenance of city parks and the Arroyo to the Recreation and Human Services Department.
The issue could be voted on by City Council as early on Monday.
“I think it’s a good change,” said Terri Ashley-Macquarrie, who sits on the commission. “People are confused by the overlap between Public Works and Human Services. For organizations that are focused on serving the public by offering classes in the parks, for example, I think it makes sense to be human services because they are also focused on serving individuals.”
City officials began contemplating the change after employees in the Department of Public Works saw their workload an increase due to Measure I funding.
The three-quarter cent sales tax puts about $22 million in the citys general fund. Mayor Terry Tornek proposed that the bulk of the new funds be used for urgent capital projects, with a five-year spending plan.
Although no one came out in person to oppose the plan, the commission did receive correspondence from local residents raising questions on the matter, including preservationists Thomas D. Seifert and Dianne Philibosian.
“We are generally in support of uniting park maintenance and recreation services,” the letter reads. “However, we are concerned about the on-going support and nurturance of our natural habitat throughout the city. There needs to be someone with direct authority to implement park and natural habitat maintenance. Will this be the Parks and Recreation Administrator? To whom will this position report? What opportunity will there be for citizen input for the job description, candidate selection, and to the on-going work of the Parks and Recreation Administrator? What autonomy will this administrator have to implement whatever means are necessary for quality maintenance? Who will provide the expertise for the natural habitat in the lower and upper arroyo areas? Who will provide the expertise to maintain the appropriate permits and operation of the low flow streams and fish habitat areas? Who will be responsible for oversight of the forestry division of the city?”
“These are critical questions and issues which must be addressed in depth prior to implementing such a dramatic change,” the email concludes.
Resident John Fauvre wrote to say the move could be a good one, but only with one important condition.
“I see the transfer of the nurturance and maintenance of parks and The Arroyo to the Recreation Department is on the agenda. This may be a smart move,” wrote Fauvre. “But only if a strong naturalist is retained to support and enhance the treasures of the Arroyo Seco and the other parks. Can there be a clear jobs description to require this in the new order?