HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs residents, some with children in tow, attended a recent city commission meeting voicing concerns about the need for additional funding for the City's Parks and Recreation Department budget.
“The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board began last November to look at the maintenance and staffing needs for our city,” said Ross Ambrose, the Board’s chair. “We also were tasked with becoming the Tree Board last year.”
Listing issues of concern, Ambrose also provided a five-year vision plan to address the items of most concern. Ambrose then followed up with suggestions from the Tree Board.
Noting that some of the equipment, restrooms and fields at city parks could not be adequately maintained by one person, specifically noting the Civic Center playground – which has been closed for four months – Ambrose said, “The budget should be a reflection of community priorities and a vision of those leading the city.”
Ambrose said, “The City used to have two full-time people in the Parks and Recreation Department.” Now the City has one person to take care of all six parks, which he listed as the Civic Center, Sports Complex, Memorial, Walter Howard, Catherine L. Taylor and James Paul Parks.
He noted that the Advisory Board realized that other priorities had to be addressed in previous fiscal years to take care of regulatory requirements. Now the Advisory Board wants to make commissioners aware of needs that have gone unmet due to previous budget constraints and the resulting deterioration of some of the recreation facilities during the past few years.
Pointing to the City's grant efforts to obtain new playground equipment, Ambrose stated that the City must also provide for maintenance of that equipment once it has been purchased.
One item that received additional inquiry and discussion was Ambrose's comment that staff had to turn down requests to use some facilities because there was no money in his budget to operate the lights.
“I have to watch my utility budget very carefully,” said Basford. “Turning on the lights uses more electricity than running them.” He told commissioners he had to limit the length of use of the fields during the winter months due to his limited utility budget.
Referring to recreation-related items in need of repair, Ambrose said, “There is no inventory…because Robert doesn't have time to sit down and make a list.”
Ambrose noted further that there are policies that need to be addressed that could put the City in a position of liability. “Robert has identified such items as transporting children to other facilities as one of many items that there is no policy in place to address,” he said. “The City has been lucky so far that nothing has happened because of the lack of policies.”
Another item brought to the commission's attention was that in every economic development workshop the City has had over the years, “good recreational opportunities” is listed as one of the items comprising a good quality of life, one of the stepping stones to attracting families to the community.
Several audience members addressed the commission, some of whom were coaches who have subsidized equipment purchases for their teams due to lack of budgeted funds to provide for or replace defective equipment.
Commissioner Sue Weller and Mayor Byran Williams both thanked Ambrose and the citizens who had spoken and said they would take the suggestions made during the meeting into their budget workshops, the first of which begins July 12.
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