The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

April 5, 2013

Building a viable consensus on how to fund, maintain parks

ENID, Okla. — During the bond debate, City Manager Eric Benson noticed Enid residents wanting better attention paid to our existing local parks.

Despite the failure of the $50 million “Quality of Life” initiative, Enid Park Board Chairman Matt Davis claims community support to fix and maintain city parks remains strong.

A slim majority — 53 percent — of readers agree with Davis, according to our unscientific poll at EnidNews.com.

What’s the next step?

A proposed realignment is a starting point for City Hall and city commissioners to build a viable consensus on how to fund and maintain city parks.

It’s happening sooner rather than later. Enid city commissioners heard a proposal Tuesday night to realign the city’s Public Works Department and create a more robust parks and recreation department.

The realignment would retain parks and recreation within public works, but would separate out non-parks public works and create a department with the sole focus of maintaining city parks. The realignment would create a parks department staffed by 26 people, including a parks director and three other new administrative positions.

The remainder of the department staff would be reallocated from other city departments. The plan calls for the net addition of 10 new city employees, with an annual cost increase of $382,000, and an initial outlay of about $600,000 for new equipment.

New Ward 6 Commissioner Dr. David Vanhooser called for creating a viable parks and recreation department in the immediate future. A draft resolution requested re-appropriating $750,000 from other areas of the city budget to “kick-start” development of the new parks department.

“I want to see a radical change,” Vanhooser said. “I want the public to start seeing parks and ball fields that are beautiful as early as this summer.”

As the plan evolves, we should be wary of creating a fiefdom for parks with top-heavy administration.

We realize the need for boots on the ground and equipment on a seasonal basis to keep our green spaces clean and manicured.

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