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Recreation: More office hours, same staffing levels

by Susan Bromley

August 07, 2013

Brandon Twp.- Hours of operation are increasing in the recreation department, although not the number of operators or their hours per week.

At their Aug. 5 meeting, the township board approved by a 6-1 vote to open the recreation office five days a week beginning this week. Supervisor Kathy Thurman voted no.

The vote came after a lengthy renewed debate on whether to increase hours for the part-time recreation administrative assistant (Kara Titus) from 24 hours to 29 hours, which Thurman supports. The board ultimately decided to revisit an increase in staffing hours at an Aug. 21 special meeting.

"I voted no (on increasing office hours) because I believe she needs to have her hours increased at the same time we increase the hours of operation of the department," said Thurman.

After a months-long probe into recreation issues which culminated in a July 22 employee review hearing in which Recreation Director Fred Waybrant and supporters successfully made a case for him keeping his position, a conciliatory tone seemed to have been struck. The board and Waybrant agreed he would give a report in November on actions taken to improve the department.

One of the primary improvements to the department, the board had appeared to agree, would be more help for Waybrant, who lost two full-time employees after budget cuts in 2011 and 2012. However, how that will be funded is now being debated once more.

"Can this recreation budget be any more out of skew?" asked Trustee Ron Lapp at Monday night's meeting. "Fred should fix the budget, it's his responsibility. I'm about as confused as I can be."

Thurman favors using more funds from the township's cell tower lease for park maintenance. This past year, Thurman said $39,000 of cell tower revenue was used to support the general fund, while $21,000 was directed to the 508 recreation budget to support park maintenance. Last year, the township spent $26,000 on park maintenance.

Earlier this year, Thurman continued, $4,000 was moved from the administrative assistant line item into a park maintenance line item due to the funding shortfall for park maintenance. She wants to use more cell tower funds for park maintenance, freeing up funds from the 508 budget to pay for five more hours per week for the part-time recreation employee.

"Until we can get more hours for the administrative assistant it will create an additional burden on the recreation director because of insufficient staffing," said Thurman.

Recreation is intended to be self-funded by program fees, with the exception of the recreation director's salary, paid out of the general fund. In past years, cell tower funds were all funneled to helping pay for park development and park maintenance.

"If we don't have enough cell tower money for maintenance, something needs to be done," said Trustee Dana DePalma. "If we want to see this (the recreation department) work, we need to give more hours."