The amount of work needed to make the city park look crisp and well-maintained makes it impossible to craft a quick fix, according to Mayor Jeff Palmore.
“Too much has been left undone for too long,” Palmore said. “I’m not going to put a Band-Aid on it.”
Requests were made at the July 15 board of aldermen meeting for the mayor to assign the part-time maintenance worker to the parks department full time.
Bill Pemberton, who is often referred to as the parks maintenance man, splits his time between the parks and police department, and also is on call for other street department work.
Alderman Mike Pigg and Stephen Flannery, park board president, both requested that Pemberton be assigned full time to the parks.
City Engineer Dan Rahn, who oversees the street department, said he would hate to see the mayor tell Pemberton that he only works for one department.
“There might be a time when we need him to do something else,” Rahn said.
Before making a decision on the request, Palmore toured the parks to get a sense of what the full-time parks worker would do.
“The work I saw that is needed has been needed for some time,” Palmore said. “The number of things that need to be done is overwhelming.”
Palmore identified peeling paint on park benches, warped bench seats and table planks, pealing paint on pavilion columns and baseboards, one completely rusted metal bench. Adding those to all the identified maintenance problems in the swimming pool building, calls for a larger work plan, the mayor said.
“These things are not recent,” the mayor said. “Our parks are just tired. What we need can’t be accomplished by adding an employee for four more hours a week until we define what that individual is going to do.”
The mayor said he had not yet met with Pemberton to learn what his park duties entail or how he views the need.
“I want to get his take on this,” Palmore said.
The mayor is currently advertising for applicants to fill the job of city administrator, to replace Harold Selby who left the city June 30.
He would like to see a system of mid-level supervisors to schedule, monitor and assign routine work but he won’t move on those goals until a city administrator is in place.
“I’m a person who believes in procedures and we’re going to put procedures in place,” Palmore said. “But we need the professional manager to act on those things.”
The mayor said he is not critical of Pemberton’s work and is not resisting the call for more hours in maintaining the park but the deterioration of the parks is too far advanced to look for a quick fix. It will take a long-term, consistent work program to make the parks look as they should, he said.
A knee-jerk reaction, such as re-assigning an employee in the middle of a board meeting, is not the best way to manage a city.
“We are going to take care of all of these things,” Palmore said. “We’re going to clean things up but we’re going to do it in a way that it can be done every week.”