Questions were raised at the July 21, 2009 City Commission meeting regarding the costs of operating Bonner Park. Before addressing Bonner Park specifically, it is important that the conversation be framed around the fact that Largo Parks are a system. With few exceptions, parks personnel work at multiple sites performing a number of specialized tasks as well as routine grounds maintenance. As the parks division shrinks due to reduced budgets, as it has for several years, the notion of every position being tied to a specific park changes. Total land maintained, in relation to numbers of front line staff and supervisory staff, will trigger both evaluation of possible closures to reduce the total amount of land maintained with the available staff, as well as reduction in service levels to all properties.
The Parks Division includes 44.1 FTE employees in FY2009 and is organized as follows:
Parks Administration: comprised of the Superintendent and 1.5 FTE office staff.
Under the direction of the Parks Superintendent there are five "programs":
Largo Central Park - maintains the 180 acres comprising the Main Park, Library, Mid-Section and the Nature Preserve and provides support to special events.
Parks and City Support - maintains community parks, neighborhood parks, city hall, fire stations, West Bay Drive, oversees medians.
Nature Parks - maintains McGough Park and Nature Center, Bonner Park, all environmental education, nature camps and nature special events at all three nature parks.
Athletic and Irrigation - maintains all athletic complexes including Whitesell Softball Complex, Belcher Soccer Complex, Largo Sports Complex, and athletic fields at Southwest Recreation, Highland Recreation and Bayhead and maintains all city irrigation systems at parks and other municipal facilities. In addition this program supervises the grounds equipment mechanic and repairs.
Technical Services - oversees the two tree crews, major landscape installations, tradeworkers who inspect and repair all hardscapes and other trades related projects.
Each program has an associated supervisor or foreman and a variety of technical staff (horticulture techs, irrigation techs, spray techs, tree trimmers, mechanic, nature program specialist) as well as grounds maintenance workers.
The FY 2010 budget proposes a reduction of 5 FTE staff to include one parks supervisor in the Nature Parks Program, one Foreman in Technical Services and three Grounds Maintenance Workers (one in the Nature Preserve, one that is shared by the Parks Maintenance and City Support Programs and a third one in the Athletics and Irrigation Program). Supervisory responsibilities under this proposal will be reallocated by having the Nature Parks Program report to the Parks Superintendent and the Foreman position will be absorbed by the Assistant Superintendent. The other three deleted Grounds Maintenance Worker tasks would have to be absorbed by the remaining staff in parks resulting in service level reductions.
In the case of the 19-acre Bonner Park there are a number of staff throughout the Parks Division programs that perform services to keep this park operational. Additionally there is a Park Supervisor position within the Nature Parks Program budget that is being proposed for deletion. While only a portion of the Supervisor's time is allocated to Bonner Park, in deleting the position, one deletes the entire salary and benefits expense from the budget.
When the numbers related to the closure of Bonner Park and the Nature Preserve were provided to the City Commission, the savings were reported as approximately $150,000. This figure reflected the salary and benefits of one park supervisor and one grounds maintenance worker ($118,700) as well as some reductions in operating expenses. A second number that was cited was "$5,000 to maintain Bonner Park." That number represents only the contracted mowing cost for the relatively small grassed area at Bonner Park.
If Bonner Park remains open, staff recommends that the Supervisor position and Foreman positions be deleted as proposed, but that a Grounds Maintenance Worker position be added in place of the Supervisor position in FY 2010. This would increase the 2010 Proposed Budget by approximately $34,000. An additional $2000 would need to be added to the proposed budget for contractual mowing which was reduced from $5,000 to $3,000 as part of the proposed closure.
It should also be noted that the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) has a project to replace the boardwalk at Bonner Park. That project was deleted from the FY 2010-2014 CIP in anticipation of the proposal to close this park. The $200,000 boardwalk replacement project will need to be funded in the CIP to occur within the next few years.
The Parks Division will be responsible for the maintenance and oversight of almost 500 acres of land with 11% fewer staff in FY 2010. If the Grounds Maintenance position is added back into the 2010 Proposed Budget, the Parks Division will still be operating with 9% fewer staff and maintaining an additional 8.5 acres of land (the new Community Center site) more than what they are currently. All levels of service, including Bonner Park, will experience some reductions in service.
If the Nature Preserve, also proposed for closure, remains open, staff recommends that only 2 (instead of 3) Grounds Maintenance Worker positions be deleted in 2010. This position is responsible for opening and closing the 33-acre park, cleaning the restrooms, picnic shelter, boardwalk and display area as well as maintaining the trees and grounds. This would increase the 2010 Proposed Budget by $34,000.
In summary, staff's recommendation, if Bonner Park is to remain open, is to add a Grounds Maintenance Position in place of a Parks Supervisor position and add an additional contractual mowing budget for a total of $36,000. The staff recommendation, if the Largo Central Park Nature Preserve is to remain open, would be to delete 2 (instead of 3) of the Parks Division Ground Maintenance Worker positions for a total of $34,000. The total for both parks to remain open in FY 2010 would be $70,000 which includes funding for 2 FTE Grounds Maintenance Workers.
Joan Byrne, Largo Recreation, Parks and Arts Director
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