Smith suggests county take direct control of parks

Published 6:03 pm Saturday, August 25, 2018

Changes could be coming to the Parks and Recreation Commission, if the Warren County Board of Supervisors has a say-so.

During a work session Friday, County Administrator John Smith gathered the board together to make sure they’re all on the same page before a scheduled meeting with members of the commission Monday to discuss financial issues the organization has been having that threaten the future of Clear Creek Golf Course.

“I just want to make sure we’re all on the same wave length and unified,” Smith told the supervisors.

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Over the past year, the commission has approached the supervisors for needed funding outside their budget because of expenses, in particular a $40,000 increase in employee insurance coverage. The commissioners also claim they need an $82,000 increase to their fiscal 2019 budget and just recently requested and received $65,000 from the supervisors to meet their financial obligations for the rest of this fiscal year that ends in September.

In July, members of the commission told the supervisors if they don’t receive a budget increase, the golf course might have to close due to rising costs.

“We want to save the golf course if at all possible, but we can’t keep doing what we’re doing,” Richard George, board of supervisors president, said Friday.

Smith suggested the county take control of parks and recreation and make it a department answerable to the supervisors and part of the centralized payroll, purchasing and accounting.

“We need to find a way to control these unplanned subsidies,” Smith said. “They’re spending money that is not planned for and using the board as a safety net.”

There are currently eight employees in parks and recreation who are part of the county insurance plan. One option is for those eight to have their own plan, similar to employees in the E911 system, and would receive a reduced rate. Smith said a Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan would save the parks and recreation employees $50,000 per year and is an 80/20 match, similar to what the county currently provides to their nearly 300 employees.

Just like other county departments, parks and recreation would also receive assistance on their budget from Smith, while county purchasing agent Tonga Vinson and payroll clerk Loretta Brantley would manage accounting and purchasing for parks and recreation.

The supervisors are hopeful the commission will be in favor of these proposed changes.

“Anyone that’s in the position that they’re in with money troubles and the only place they can come to get money is here, that they’re going to be receptive to the idea of we can help you help yourselves. But to do that, we have to have this system in place to truly implement it,” George said.

The supervisors and commissioners are scheduled to meet at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the board conference room.