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Officials clash over plan for Port parks department PDF Print E-mail
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Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 18:19

Recommendation not to replace director angers board members worried about dearth of leadership

    Members of two Port Washington committees clashed Tuesday over how to replace outgoing Parks and Recreation Director Charlie Imig.
    The Personnel Committee recommended that instead of replacing Imig, the city place forester Jon Crain in charge of managing the parks and create a recreation director’s position to handle the recreation programs.
    That position would likely be filled by Recreation Supr. Kiley Schulte, members said, noting the changes would save the city as much as $50,000 next year while placing qualified candidates in jobs where they can shine.
    But two members of the Parks and Recreation Board disagreed, saying a new director is needed and any change in the organization of the department should be done with input from their panel.
    “It looks to me to be a major restructuring of park and rec. I was really surprised to see this since there were no formal discussions with the Park and Rec Board,” board member Jeff Lamont said, asking the committee to take no action until the Parks and Rec Board discussed it.
    “We think there should be a director.”
    The proposed change would diminish the park system, Parks and Recreation Board President Ron Voigt said.
    “Parks and Rec is probably the jewel of the city, and now you want to diminish it,” he said, noting that spreading the duties of one person between two doesn’t work well.
    “I’ve seen it at the county level and it works like crap,” Voigt said.
    Committee members noted that their recommendation will be brought to the Parks and Recreation Board for its consideration on Thursday, Nov. 16, and both panels comments will be taken to the Common Council for action on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
    Action needs to be taken that night because that’s when the council will approve the 2018 budget, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
    “It feels like this is being pushed through very quickly,” Lamont said, suggesting the city place funding for a director in the budget and then work with the Parks and Rec Board to determine how to replace Imig when he leaves Nov. 8. “I feel our board is not being respected.”
    Voigt concurred, saying, “It won’t change. This is set in stone. We keep getting cut back. Sooner or later, we should just put it all under (Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven) and disband the Parks and Rec Board.”
    Grams said he made the recommendation to replace Imig with Crain and Schulte. Crain’s job description was amended earlier this year to include supervising the park maintenance workers, a move the Parks and Rec Board approved, he noted, adding Crain has a degree in urban forestry and is a certified arborist.
    Schulte has been largely handling the recreation programs, Grams said, adding the city would hire an administrative assistant to help with the office work.
    While the two currently report to Imig, Grams said that under the new plan Crain would report to Vanden Noven and Schulte to Grams.  
    There are still some details to be worked out, he acknowledged, “but I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult to do.”
    Lamont and Voigt said they believe Crain and Schulte are capable of handling the duties, but said they feared that the two would be spread too thin to take on all the responsibilities that Imig shoulders.
    “As a board, we’d like to have a director handling our parks and recreation,” Voigt said.
    But committee members question why, if Schulte and Crain are able to handle the positions, the city should hire another full-time person as a director.
    “Why, if you’ve got these two talented people, would I put someone ahead of Kiley?” committe member Mike Ehrlich said.
    Both Schulte and Crain said they are prepared to take on the extra duties. Crain said he’s already been considering ways to improve park maintenance and to increase coordination between the city’s forestry crew and the parks department.
    “I’m up for the challenge,” Crain said. “I know the parks need help with maintenance. I see a lot of opportunities.”
    Schulte said she, too, is “confident and excited about this position. I have a ton of goals I want to see the recreation department achieve.”
    A significant amount of coordination and communication will be required to make the situation work, they said, but they are willing to do this.
    Committee members were enthusiastic about the proposal.
    “I think this gives you both a great opportunity to excel at what you’re doing well,” Ehrlich told Crain and Schulte. “If we were to hire another parks and recreation director, I think it would be a resource waste. I think you can take this challenge, and that’s why I’m comfortable with this.

 
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