Mayor Jeff Palmore and park board President Stephen Flannery are in agreement that a new direction is needed in the day-to-day maintenance of the city park system.
Both men made comments following a lengthy discussion of the condition of the swimming pool building that took place at the July 1 board of aldermen meeting.
Alderman Steve Myers brought the issue to the forefront with a presentation on what he described as long-term neglect of the city swimming pool building.
Myers displayed a dozen photos to fellow aldermen showing the structure in various states of deterioration.
The photos showed leaky faucets, rusty legs, deteriorated floors and a water heater that has not worked in recent memory.
Palmore thanked Myers for bringing the issue forward saying the condition of the building could not be attributed to the need for repairs.
“This goes way beyond repairs,” Palmore said. “This is basic maintenance.”
During the board discussion, Alderman Mike Pigg suggested that Bill Pemberton, part-time parks maintenance employee, be assigned to the parks full time.
Flannery said he appreciated the public discussion on the condition of the swimming pool building, but the structure is just one element of a park system that often falls behind other city needs in assigning funds and manpower.
“With all the needs the city has, the parks system has been underfunded and undervalued,” Flannery said. “We (the park board) have been trying to build a park system with Eagle Scout projects and volunteers. Our parks need to be in condition to serve the public, but to do that we need more money and more manpower.”
The park board president said he agrees with Alderman Pigg that one thing that could help to complete the list of needed repairs would be to assign Pemberton to the parks full time, but procedures also are needed.
A standing operating procedure (SOP) for pool opening and closing needs to be put in place and basic repairs should be made before the pool opened, he said.
“I walked through the pool area and building with Mr. Pemberton before the pool opened and we identified things that needed to be done, some of the same things Alderman Myers mentioned,” Flannery said. “I took the list to the city administrator and somehow it was not completed.”
Pemberton, who also provides maintenance in the police department on the lower level of city hall, may be spread too thin, Flannery said. He needs to have the ability to identify problem spots, adequate time to do the work and get the material needed for each project.
“This should not be a ‘mother may I’ approach,” Flannery said. “An employee should have the materials he needs.”
The Pacific Parks Department is operated with a budget line item that was reduced from $250,000 in previous years to $155,000 in the new budget. Of that, $40,000 goes for the swimming pool management contract.
“Mr. Pemberton’s salary also comes from (the line item),” Flannery said.
Flannery said he would like to see the park board sit at the table in the budget process, as city department heads do, and present a list of basic needs in the park.
“I’ve given a report on the parks annually, but it falls on deaf ears,” he said.
Flannery said he feels confident that if Pemberton were a full-time parks maintenance employee and empowered within reason to buy materials or supplies he needs, or have a written operating system that required a work order, the maintenance would all be done in a timely manner.
“I’ve seen Bill Pemberton in action, working at the rodeo and when we installed the playground equipment and he was always willing to go beyond his everyday duties,” he said. “The challenge has been that he has had duties in other departments.”
Flannery said the park board has a long list of things that need to be corrected, but requests have floundered amid other city needs so the importance of the work is lowered.
“All I want is to have Bill Pemberton as a full-time parks employee, empowered with what he needs to do the job, and I want to build the bathroom building in Liberty Field,” Flannery said.
Palmore agreed that the parks maintenance employee has to have the time and materials to complete the job.
“If he is being pulled off the job we need to correct that and we have to give him the materials to do what he needs to do,” Palmore said. “We have to make that happen.”