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City looks to rebuild Parks and Rec.

Council creates new advisory board with rural representation

SOLON– More big changes are coming.
The conversion of the former middle school into a community center has prompted the city to shake up its structure regarding parks and recreation programs.
At an April 4 meeting, council members took the first step in dismantling the Solon Parks and Recreation Commission, replacing it instead with an advisory team which will include rural representatives.
The new advisory group will include five current parks and recreation commission members– Brian Fitzpatrick, Kelsey Bumsted, Shannon Hansel, Kelli Andresen and Brock Peters– and a new appointee, Matt Anson. Four other charter members will be appointed in the future, each serving two-year terms.
The future makeup of the team will consist of 10 members– five from within the city limits, and five residing either in town or in the rural community.
The new advisory group was one of several subjects discussed at the April 4 session, a joint meeting between the council and the parks and recreation commission.
During planning for the community center, City Administrator Cami Rasmussen explained, a commonly-discussed theme was providing a voice for rural residents regarding recreation programming.
“For people to buy in and believe in it, it’s going to take everybody,” Rasmussen said.
The idea of an advisory board was generated after discussions with City Attorney Kevin Olson, she noted.
The resolution establishing the advisory team contained much of the language used to create the parks and recreation commission, but will exclude direct oversight of staff and finances.
“It’s just not allowed to have people outside the city limits have jurisdiction over those items,” Rasmussen said. The budget and employee supervision will shift to the administrative and council level, she added.
Recreation Coordinator Mike Reeve will oversee the advisory team and provide administration, much as he does currently with the parks and recreation commission, Rasmussen reported.
The team will make recommendations for the development of recreation areas, facilities, activities and programs, as well as associated rules, regulations and fees, to the city council.
But not parks.
“We just felt that as the city’s grown, parks and park maintenance should be handled at public works level,” Rasmussen said.
Not every recommendation from the team will be taken to the city council, she said. There will be some review by city staff, but that process has yet to be worked out.
The team will also focus on trying to make the programs offered by the city self-sustaining.
“As we’ve learned, the utilities on this building are quite immense,” Rasmussen said. “We need to figure out how to create a facility that’s helping cover its expenses.”
All of the current parks and recreation members agreed to serve on the advisory group, with the exception of Wendy Wears. Anson will serve as her replacement.
The remaining four seats will be appointed by Mayor Steve Stange. The city is actively seeking applicants.
“How long do you think we’ll have for an application process?” asked council member Mark Prentice, who presided over the meeting as mayor pro tempore.
“We really need to get this team up and going as soon as possible,” Rasmussen replied, noting the city officially took over the middle school’s operations April 2. The city will honor reservations already made through the school, but would like a new price structure and rules in place by June 1.
Appointments could be made as early as the council’s April 14 meeting, she said.
The resolution establishing the advisory team was approved by city council members during the joint session. The first reading of an ordinance repealing the Solon Parks and Recreation Commission was approved by council during an earlier regular session.