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Potential cuts to parks department concern Crestwood citizens


September 28, 2005 - By MIKE ANTHONY

Executive Editor

Several residents recently voiced concerns to the Crestwood Board of Aldermen about potential cuts to the city's Parks and Rec-reation Department.

As proposed, the hours of the Crestwood Community Center would be decreased to 60 per week, resulting in a reduction in staffing needs, according to City Administrator Don Greer. Also proposed, according to Greer, is combining the Parks and Rec-reation and Public Works departments.

Greer previously told the Call that he was unaware of any formal votes taken by the Board of Aldermen regarding potential cuts, but believed aldermen had reached a consensus on personnel cuts totaling roughly $536,000.

But at the Sept. 13 board meeting, two aldermen questioned whether a consensus had been reached on proposed cuts, noting no formal votes have been taken — despite Mayor Roy Robinson's assertions the cuts have been approved by the Board of Aldermen.

During a period for public comment Sept. 13, Jim Will was one of several residents concerned about potential cuts to the Parks and Recreation Department.

"... I've been in private business for 39 years and whenever I had financial problems everybody, all departments in my business take cuts and everybody pitches in to make us more viable. I'd like to know why the Parks and Recreation Department is the one department that's being cut back so bad and they're the only ones that produce, the only entity in the city that produces income, any income at all, and they're the ones taking the brunt of the cutbacks. I'm just curious why,'' said Will, president of the Mastis Gardens Homeowners' Association.

Robinson said, "... I think if you were here at the last meeting, one of the things I said at the last meeting was the fact that the board directed some cuts to be made. When you make cuts in a city, you don't cut just to make it equal for everybody across the board. You make it based on priorities. The No. 1 priority for any city is safety.

"The thing you have to do is you have to look some place besides your Police De-partment and Fire Department because they provide the essentials for our safety — period. As we checked through the different departments, Mr. Greer came up with a list. I came up with a list and we (sat) down and we comprised. That's how we came with the cuts,'' the mayor said.

"The board was told that another way to do it was to cut the parks' time frame. I've gotten a lot of calls, I think they probably have too, about the times. I think it's something that we should go back in and take another look at to see if we can adjust it to fit with the programs and everything so that we can still get a savings, but also still make those cuts because we have less personnel to run those.

"So we're not trying to — as soon as we can get the city back financially, I'm sure whether it's me sitting here or other members of the board, they'll bring back, probably expand the thing because it's not because we want to. It's because we don't have the money to pay them, the people, and that's one of the things we've done to try to do that. It's not that we want to get rid of — we're not picking on the parks. That process, before I had came, had already started. They had reduced. I mean what people forget is they had reduced about 16 personnel. This board and the former mayor and Mr. Greer had reduced all that, combined some of the functions, about 16 personnel of the city,'' Robinson said.

Board President Tim Trueblood of Ward 2 said, "Mr. Will, I do not remember nor is there any record that I can find of taking a vote or voting on any of the cuts ...''

Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher said, "I disagree with the mayor and I think that's known and I agree with Mr. Will that I be-lieve cuts need to be made across the board.''

Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox said, "... I'm astonished that an alderman would say he didn't vote on this when we sat right there in a work session and everyone was astounded when I asked for a vote. They thought that decision had been made in a previous meeting and there was definitely a decision made by this board to make those cuts as proposed by the mayor and Mr. Greer.''

Trueblood said, "Work sessions are not sessions in which votes (take) place or are offered.''

Maddox interjected, "They're sessions at which a consensus is reached.''

Trueblood interjected, "And we've not voted on a result since then. Am I correct? We've not voted publicly on that issue. Am I correct?''

Robinson interjected, "... I've just been informed by the city attorney (Rob Gol-terman) that we're not to be discussing anything that happened in an executive board meeting ...''

During the board's Aug. 23 meeting, Robinson announced that Greer, who has been serving as both city administrator and police chief, will return full time to his duties as police chief once a new city ad-ministrator is hired. Robinson also an-nounced he is in the process of making roughly $536,000 in personnel cuts.

"... In addition to the $500,000 worth of cuts I've made, we're making another change in the city ...,'' the mayor said. "I proposed some cuts and they've approved them, OK? The board approved it. That's what I'm saying. Anyway, we've got approved cuts and they'll be notified shortly. But in addition to that, we are also, we're making a change. I, as all of you know, I ran on a situation where I do not believe any one person should have two positions and I have had my discussions with Mr. Greer and Mr. Greer and I agreed. We have discussed it with the board and the board has agreed. Mr. Greer will be returning as the police chief and I will be going out for a, looking for a new city administrator ...''

Asked if aldermen have approved the cuts proposed by Robinson, Greer previously told the Call, "The mayor's indicated that they have. I'm not aware of a formal vote ... There's consensus to reduce the hours of the Community Center to 60 hours a week and we'll be moving in that direction. That action in and of itself causes a reduction in staffing needs or hours. We're finalizing the plan to do that. We've made some estimates on cost-savings associated with reducing those hours.

"There's also a consensus of the board to combine the Public Works (Department) and (the) Parks and Recreation (Depart-ment) and have (Public Works Director) Mr. (Jim) Eckrich oversee both of those functions. So we'll be moving in the direction of presenting a final organizational chart, the place we need to get to, in that regard. I can tell you that I have talked with each of the department heads with regard to the effect these things have and have been as candid and frank as I believe it's appropriate to be so that they have the opportunity to plan for a longer term,'' he had said.

Robinson's cuts call for seven full-time positions to be eliminated, Greer had said, including a firefighter position that "we actually reduced in 2003.'' Of the $536,000 in personnel cuts, about $305,000 of those cuts will come from the park and stormwater fund, according to Greer.

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