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Auburn divided on plan for Parks & Leisure dept.

POSTED: July 20, 2014 12:00 p.m.

The Auburn City Council remains divided on how to handle the Parks & Leisure Department in the wake of the resignation of its head.

Council members debated last week whether to have a separate Parks & Leisure Department or if the department should move back under the umbrella of the Public Works Department. A portion of the discussion was on why there wasn’t enough cooperation between Public Works and Parks & Leisure when it came to getting work completed.

Prior to the June resignation of Rafael Avalos, the P & L had a department head and one other employee so maintenance and setting up for festivals required help from Public Works’ employees.

Councilman Bob Vogel continued stating his support of having the department be managed by Public Works.

He said it would eliminate some of the problems with the two departments and that he felt that people were using the P& L position as a stepping stone.

"I don’t think there needs to be a Parks & Leisure position," he said at Thursday’s City Council meeting. "It’s been a failure two times in a row."

Councilwoman Dorissa Shackelford said Vogel was making an assumption that the lack of cooperation was coming from the P & L side. The city would be better by having a director focusing on events and sports programming, and an assistant.

Shackelford said of 19 cities she reviewed 12 had a separate Parks & Leisure Department and five others were part of the countywide system. Shackelford said she agreed that the maintenance aspect should go under Public Works.

"There's no reason why one umbrella or two should keep people from working together," she said.

Avalos stated in his exit interview that he felt he would forced out of his position and cited difficulties in not having freedom in working on events and programming.

City officials will wait at least a few weeks with the department’s duties being handled by Public Works and Charlotte Ewing, who is splitting time as also the assistant to Public Works Director David Hawthorne.

It’ll provide more time to determine what’s required for the position and if any changes need to be made, Mayor Linda Blechinger said.

"What we don't want to do is change things around and have Charlotte doing so much that there's no possible way she could be successful," she said.

 

Councilwoman Peggy Langley also attributed the lack of cooperation being due to their being two departments.

Vogel said he’s not in favor of creating a position that focuses primarily on sports activities since the city has very few of them now.

"I think we're keeping a big position that's not warranted yet," Vogel said. "We can adjust it as we go."

Shackelford said the "change" that’s needed is improved cooperation between the labor and programming.

 

"If the two cooperate it doesn’t fail (but) without the physical labor it fails," she said.

 

 

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