2013-01-24 / News

Recreation Department to get consultant

Council wants study of programs, staff, facilities

Jamestown will go out to bid for a management consultant to study the Parks and Recreation Department, the Town Council decided Tuesday night.

At minimum, the consultant will compile a study and inventory of the existing programs, staff and facilities. The information will include a summary of program enrollments broken out by “age, activity and facility.”

The consultant will also help the town collect public comments on “the types of programs, services, facilities and locations” that people want the community to offer in the future.

The study will include a needsassessment document to delineate programs and services, as well as fields and facilities, which will be required to satisfy the community’s requirements.

Finally, the consultant will help the town’s staff come up with facilities options to meet the requirements as shown in the needs assessment.

The councilors directed Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and Solicitor Peter Ruggieri to revise the bid document to reflect the council’s discussion and comments before advertising for a consulting firm.

The councilors’ first revision addressed the purpose of the study.

The draft version emphasized studying the cost-effectiveness of the “organizational, management and staffing structure” that the rec department should implement to run the outdoor parks, beaches and programs.

Councilor Eugene Mihaly thought too much emphasis was being placed on cost-effectiveness, and he wanted to see more analysis and recommendations about the programs that the department is offering. Mihaly later said Keiser did mention the programs in the draft, but Keiser said he would revise the document to make the programs more prominent and reflect Mihaly’s concerns.

Councilor Thomas Tighe said he wanted the Town Council to interview the top three candidates.

That would be fine, Keiser said, and added in this case, the council wasn’t obligated to hire the low bidder because the management consulting is a “professional service.”

Tighe provided a long list of topics to be included in the study.

“These are some of the points I want to see,” he said, starting with accountability, staffing and Fort Getty management. Also, he said, the consultant should give an opinion about which department lifeguards should be part of: recreation or fire.

Keiser said the organizational study would evaluate where the “pieces should go.” For example, he said, Fort Getty might not belong under the rec department.

Councilor Mary Meagher said Fort Getty is like an enterprise account that’s been put under the department’s authority.

Tighe went on to say he wants to see consolidation of maintenance workers under the Public Works Department. Currently, William Piva, the rec department head, manages a few staff members who perform maintenance jobs.

He also wants to see an assessment of the department’s bookkeeping and some suggestions to deal with the “lack of controls.”

To hear the residents’ opinions about the recreational services, Tighe also wants the town to hold a public forum. He wants to know if people are happy with the services, if they feel the ball fields are being kept properly, and if they like the delivery of services. He also wants to see an analysis of the department staffing and its policies.

Keiser said the list was growing long, and he would want to consolidate the items the councilors had mentioned.

Councilor Blake Dickinson added he has one suggestion about delivery of services. He wants the department to “come into the 21st century” and acquire some software that other towns use to manage revenue and deliver services without unhappy surprises. With the technology, he said, residents can make their own reservations for ball fields and requests for other venues online. He said it’s not necessary for staff to handle these simple requests. The staff can deal with quality control, he said.

In the document, Keiser indicated 8.5 people are employed in the Parks and Recreation Department, including the director, program supervisor, clerk (which is not currently staffed), maintenance foreman, parks laborer, teen coordinator and “several part-time recreation and program assistants.”

The department also supervises seasonal employees.

Meagher said the document needs to speak to the future need to “broaden the demographic” and include the emerging elderly population, for example.

She also said the draft referred to evaluating methods of service delivery in comparably sized communities. Meagher said size was one issue, but Jamestown is an island and the document should say “comparable in size and in character.”

The study, which will look at the organization and management of the department, could be costly, Mihaly said. He suggested doing the project in phases, so the town could opt to stop after phase one.

“Why don’t we put it out to bid?” Tighe said, and see where the numbers are. If the project is going to be expensive, he said, town officials could consider phasing the work.

Keiser said the cost would not impact the budget until 2014.

Ruggieri said the councilors could interview leading candidates as early as March.

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