To Merge or Not To Merge: City and County Parks & Rec

By: Rae Chelle Davis Email
By: Rae Chelle Davis Email

A work session was held Monday night at the Law Enforcement Center to brief City Council Members of a proposal to merge the City's Parks and Recreation Department with that of Shawnee County.

Council members Karen Hiller, Sylvia Ortiz, John Alcala, Jack Woelfel, and Mayor Bill Bunten were present along with Shawnee County Commissioners Vic Miller and Ted Ensley.

If the council votes for the merger than the Parks and Recreation Department would become the responsibility of the county. Commissioner Miller said that would save taxpayer dollars but some city council members are not so sure.

"I've read the plan and at this point I don't favor the merger. I haven't seen the benefits and I haven't seen the cost savings..." said Councilwoman Deborah Swank

"There is no way merging the two departments is going to cost more. It can only cost less and they only question being asked is how much less," said Commissioner Vic Miller.

The city council will have to move fast if they are to make a decision before the budgets for both the city and the county are passed later this summer.

If the merger does go through Commissioner Miller said the directors of both Parks and Recreation Departments would be asked to create a plan by the end of the year. The county Parks and Recreation Dept. says they are for the merger while the city Parks and Recreation Dept. said they do not believe merging is in the best interest of the city.

Commissioner Miller said if the county takes over the departments they will keep city parks, pools, golf courses, and community centers the way they are now or make them better.

No action was taken during the meeting but Councilman John Alcala said they will have another work session before taking a vote in order to give all of the council members the opportunity to understand what the merger would mean and yield a thoughtful vote.

You can hear more from Monday's meeting by clicking on the video link at the top of this story.

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