Committee talks about Parks and Lakes resource usages

By Gary Scott on January 14, 2016 at 1:20pm

Some interesting discussion regarding appropriate usage of Parks and Lakes Department resources was held during a committee meeting this morning at Jacksonville City Hall.

Specific issues included the usage and delivery of benches, chairs and picnic tables for various non-city-sponsored events.

Director of Community Development and Recreational Facilities Kelly Hall said there were 23 different events last year were Parks and Lakes employees delivered equipment, which sometimes required overtime.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard noted the majority of the events were sponsored by non-profit groups.

Hall also pointed out that the Parks and Lakes Department spent $1-thousand for portable toilets for a Jacksonville School District 117 cross-country event at Community Park event last year. Hall said it’s not a money issue, but a policy issue.

Parks and Lakes Committee chairperson Marcy Patterson says after discussion, it’s been decided the city will continue to loan out park equipment, but ask organizations to pick up the materials, instead of having city employees deliver it.

“The city has been such a good neighbor for so long that it’s now just assumed, where people will call up our Parks and Lakes Department and say, ‘deliver these tables to me.’ We just need to slow that down a little bit and get it again back as an organized thing. If you’re borrowing city equipment, you can pick it up or deliver it and return it as you found it, as opposed to just believing that we have the staff available on a Saturday morning to deliver everything to you,” says Patterson.

“It’s been a great struggle because our mayor is very generous and he wants to help every organization, and while we all would like to help them too, we need to protect our employees.”

Patterson added that the question of whether the city should continue to absorb events financially, such as the portable toilet example, will be brought to the full City Council to be voted on at a future meeting.

“Any time somebody new takes over, in this case, in the Parks and Lakes, it’s been the same way for 20 years, and you take a look at the way things are done and figure out how you’re moving your money and your people and you see that there are some inconsistencies,” Patterson explains.

“We’ll do something for one group that’s not available for another group, and we’ve decided it’s time to get paperwork and policies in place about what we’re going to do for the community, and what we can do for the community as opposed to, we are not able to do that because the cost is too great for the city to absorb,” she continues.

Patterson says she doesn’t think most citizens truly understand the amount of free services being provided.

“I look forward to getting these numbers put together so we can share them with the community. People complain a little bit about the Parks and Lakes and what we’re doing or what we’re not doing. We do amazing things. I think those guys delivered 2,000 chairs last year to the general public, not-for-profit organizations to help them with their events,” she says.

“I think in doing that, we’re making our community better, but people need to recognize that the four employees of the parks department are working hard all the time for the community, and these numbers will get that out so people can see it.”

Ezard said he’d call District 117 to tell them the city won’t pay for the portable toilets in future cross country events.