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Parks task force makes recommendations
The Kitsap County Parks and Recreation Sustainability Task Force presented its set of nine recommendations to the county commissioners during a meeting Wednesday, ending a two-month assignment to determine the future of the local parks system.
Youve taken an enormous challenge and performed spectacularly, said Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown. Im amazed that you came up with this much in so short a time. Our community is fortunate to have these people who will dedicate themselves to this work. I am thankful they stepped up to the challenge.
The task force meetings were designed to find ways for the park system to save and in some cases generate funds. While the study was conducted at the same time the county is looking for ways to cut its budget, the task force operated independently and did not share information with the county during the process.
The diverse recommendations included a suggestion to aggressively promote and present the Events Center at the Fairgrounds and cancel the Holidazzle celebration in order to save $20,000 from the county general fund.
The Parks Department is completely satisfied with this report, said Parks and Recreation Director Chip Faver. They took a broad view and asked very pertinent questions. They were tasked with the mission of how to sustain parks in this community and gave us a guide map for moving forward.
Im very pleased with their recommendations, he said. I see nothing but positive results from this.
The recommendations include:
Review and re-establish the Parks and Recreation Department vision, goals and objectives with the assistance of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. This involves setting an expectation level for the park service, how much it can accomplish and what customers may have to pay out of their own pockets.
Establish an accounting system that segregates costs by program and function, along with defined revenue sources. This would would allow for clearer oversight, better management, strategic allocation of resources, improve tracking of the countys general fund subsidy and the departments rate and fee performance. Said task force chair Patty Lent, There are a lot of resources that can be shared with other departments.
Examine the fee structure. Despite the rising cost of doing business each year, rates and fees for renting and using county parks, facilities and programs have not increased since 2003. The task force also recommended reviewing all fees and rates annually as part of the budget process, comparing market rates and actual cost performance in relation to operational goals and objectives.
Improve the Web site. The current site is not intuitive or user-friendly, does not offer on-line registration, program location, application or reservations for programs or facility rentals, potentially impacting utilization and associated income.
It also lacks links to local Web sites featuring other parks and recreation opportunities.
Among these improvements, the task force suggested providing Web access that offers on-line applications for facility use, reservations, fee payments, program registrations and links to stewardship groups.
Develop the Events Center as an enterprise fund. The costs, staffing and resources to operate and maintain the Kitsap County Fairgrounds and Events Center are drawing resources from park and open space operations.
The county should develop contracts and concession management on parks property that currently lacks a clear plan, policy and operational oversight. This could be improved by defining the Events Center as a unique unit with its own cost center and dedicated revenue stream.
When this was brought up at the meeting with the county commissioners, there was some disagreement about the disposition of any extra funds or profits earned by the facility.
Whether such money would be used for facility maintenance or poured into the general fund has yet to be decided.
The county provides and co-sponsors a multitude of recreational and entertainment programs year round throughout the county. Some programs and events are heavily subsidized, while others have modest community involvement or return. The task force recommended the county shift from being a direct recreation program provider to a regional coordinator, contractor or facilitator.
A casualty of this recommendation would be the annual Holidazzle event, which costs $20,000. Lent said this is money the county cannot afford, although it could continue if a sponsor was recruited to pay the expenses.
Inventory all of the smaller parks owned by the county and transfer responsibility of the smaller pocket parks to the local communities.
Increase personnel slightly. Fill the vacant planner position (a recommendation that contradicts the current hiring freeze) because planning is necessary and current staff is already over-stressed.
Additionally, the county should hire a stewardship coordinator who would facilitate implementation of community partnerships for parks and communities while promoting, organizing and coordinating community-based partnerships to supplement or supplant parks maintenance efforts and increase parks vigilance to deter vandalism.
This staffer could also monitor and seek grants to support stewardship maintenance efforts and aggressively market facility use.
The recreation program positions should be redefined as program facilitators that support the stewardship program, focus on community partnerships and community events, and support county-wide use of the Web site.
Keep the task force intact. Lent said the task forces purpose is to tell the commissioners what needs to be done but not tell them how to accomplish those goals. As a result, some follow-up may be needed. She suggested reconvening in six months or a year to determine progress.
We related well and found consensus on every subject, Lent said. We would like to work with the board of commissioners in the future so we can complete the process.