Parks & Rec Reviews A $2.2 Million Budget

A $2.2 million budget request for the Parks and Recreation Department represents a 1.1 percent increase for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Ed Marks, who has spoken with First Selectman Pat Llodra as town budget discussions begin, said this week he believes “she is pleased with what we have submitted so far,” but is prepared to reduce the 1.1 percent as the funding request goes before town boards prior to a referendum.

Much of the percentage comes from required increases such as insurance, retirement contributions, and contractual increases, he said. But with a zero increase budget in mind, he said, “We are trying to get to that number.”

“We need to replace vehicles,” he said, pointing out that he has already cut a request for one of two roughly $75,000 trucks from the capital line item. That cut represents “the only place we have to cut back,” he said. “And if we go into budget season without the $75,000, that is a big cut. … When we need to cut to make status quo, it’s capital that gets cut.” Having pulled the truck, he said, “It’s easier to defend the entire budget.”

Another item, a mower that they have “needed to replace for some time,” he said, could cost as much as $34,000. Feeling the need to replace the aging machinery, Mr Marks said, “We were not able to get it into last year’s budget and the price has gone up. We do not get more staff, so we look to be more efficient — this mower would do that.”

The old mower is out of service “quite a bit for repairs.” A new diesel mower would be more productive.

“We try to make improvements where we can,” he said.

His commission also checked with the town’s Public Works Department regarding its equipment and the age of the fleet.

“They also need to replace [vehicles] and are being asked to hold off,” he said.

As the fleet ages, trucks are “out of service more, less reliable.” A seven-year-old pickup truck, for example, that is used only for driving, is something that Mr Marks would want to replace with a full size, heavy duty truck “that could plow the town and do heavy work,” he said. “When people think of Parks & Rec, they think of parks, but do not think of plowing and some construction work. We are really pinched in managing department functions.”

About the town pool he said, “One thing we feel is critical — to hire an engineering consultant to look at Treadwell pool.” The deck of the Philo Curtis Road pool is starting to show deterioration. “We need to know if it’s surface issues or do we need to think about replacing the pool; we thought we need to take steps in thinking about that and it’s a $15,000 expense,” he said.

Of the budget overall, Mr Marks said, “We know we have some flexibility in capital line items,” and to reduce the budget, “We might have some options there.”

“There are a lot of things the department would like to do, but we pull back,” said the commission chair.

While some larger projects are included in the town’s five-year Capital Improvement Plan, he said smaller items — enhancing the lightning detection system, expansions at the skate park, for example — have been put off.

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