Parks, recreation group to vote on county plan

Published 6:15 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

By John Surratt

The Vicksburg Post

Some duties of the Warren County Parks and Recreation Commission could fall under the county’s umbrella, pending a special commission meeting Sept. 4.

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The commissioners and the Board of Supervisors at a Monday work session discussed a plan to put the commission’s accounting, payroll and purchasing activity under the county, with commissioners getting budget assistance from county administrator John Smith. If the commission agrees, the changeover will become effective Oct. 1 when the new fiscal year begins.

The Parks and Recreation Commission will meet Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the proposal.

“It is the Board of Supervisors’ intention to improve the management of the commission for parks and rec by consolidating certain functions like budgeting, purchasing and payroll,” Smith said.

“By law, the commission has full jurisdiction over the management of the facilities and (the) funding provided so they can implement these procedures or to enhance the commission’s management ability with these consolidated functions will pay the bills on time.”

He said the board will help the commission on cash flow problems and provide management assistance on budgeting “so that a plan can be followed and adjusted during the fiscal year.”

The supervisors’ suggestions come after commissioners earlier in August requested and received $65,000 from the supervisors to meet their financial obligations for the rest of this fiscal year that ends in September.

Funding for parks and recreation has been an ongoing problem, primarily from Clear Creek Golf Course, which is owned by the county. Members of the Parks and Recreation Commission have cited declining revenues from golfers and rising costs in upkeep and employee insurance.

Over the past year, the commission has approached the supervisors for extra money outside its budget because of expenses, particularly a $40,000 increase in employee insurance coverage. The commissioners also said they needed an $82,000 increase to their fiscal 2019 budget.

Consolidating the three services, Smith said, would place parks and recreation as a component of county government and under a consolidated audit.

Smith said later the county has similar arrangements with the Warren County Port and Library commissions.

Under the proposed move, Smith said:

• The pay period for park and recreation employees would change from every other week to twice a month like other county employees.

• The commission’s bills will be paid the first Monday of each month.

“You all will approve your claims docket at your meeting and submit those claims to the county and the county will put them on the claims docket for the board to be paid the first Monday of the month,” Smith said.

• Purchases of goods and services for the commission will be done through the county’s purchasing department using a requisition and purchase order system.

• Smith will help the commission develop a workable budget that the commission will adopt, and the supervisors adopt. He said the county does the same thing with the port and library commissions.

“What we’re hoping for in these times of cash flow problems, the administrator and middle management of parks and rec will concur on proper management decisions on securing goods and services,” Smith said.

“We’re going to still operate by cash balance.”

“What happens when the cash runs dry?” commission chairman Dale McDuff asked.

Smith said the supervisors and commissioners would meet to discuss cash flow problems. While the cash flow problems will not disappear, he said, the proposed program will provide a better management tool for the commission’s budget.

“We’re going to have to do some management decisions during the year,” Smith said. “We may have to put a hold on purchasing goods and commodities.”

Smith questioned why the parks and recreation was not put under the county when it was organized.

McDuff said he was at the meeting when the commission was created, “And every year it’s been the same thing; more money, more money, more money. It’s always been a money situation.”

He said his biggest concern is the condition and maintenance of the golf course, saying he was concerned about its future if cuts were made in the materials and equipment necessary to maintain it.

Commissioners and the supervisors also discussed how to attract more golfers to the course. The supervisors directed the commission to develop ideas to increase activity.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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