Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Park Board or not, Porter park director stands ready to lead town department

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By PAULENE POPARAD

An ordinance that would eliminate a Park Board in the Town of Porter was introduced Tuesday and a final vote is anticipated Oct. 22.

Residents offering comments were split. Long-time former Park Board member Patty Raffin said its four members devote many hours to the community and donate more time and money than their $50 per meeting compensation could ever cover.

Residents also questioned whether a proposed seven-member citizen park advisory board would have any real purpose.

Former councilman Bill Sexton said on one hand the Park Board is being praised, yet on the other hand it sounds as if members are being labeled as obstructionists, a charge that was denied.

Sexton also noted other town departments don’t have advisory boards and with seven members, board consensus would be difficult to achieve.

Former Park Board member Nikki Crist said if reorganization occurs a lot would be required of the park director, and she speculated a seven-member advisory board could be too many cooks in the kitchen.

But current member Jeff Bailey said if a Park Board micro-manages the Park Department and second-guesses its employees, that inhibits their performance and delays good things from happening.

Resident Jennifer Klug supported the change. “This is something good for the town, (a) positive step for our community.”

The stated goal of dumping the Park Board is to deliver comparable or better park services in a streamlined manner to save an estimated $5,000 to $6,000 a year by eliminating the board, a secretary and an attorney, and by sharing employees and assets across town departments.

Town Council member Jeannine Virtue said this summer a volunteer wanted to help trim trees for the Parks Department, but the request involved seven people and generated 10 emails when it was a decision park director Brian Bugajski should have had authority to make himself.

Under a reorganization Bugajski would become a full department head like that of the Police, Fire, Public Works and Building departments. After Tuesday’s meeting he said he’s remaining neutral on the policy shift but is ready if change occurs.

"People have been asking me if I’m in favor or against this. I’m Switzerland. I have a commitment to this job and the residents of this town. Whichever way this falls, I’ll still be doing my job,” said the park director.

Bailey said Bugajski, hired in January, is a more than capable administrator and manager. As for Virtue, “I haven’t seen anything Brian can’t do.”

The back-and-forth between residents and council president Elka Nelson, a vocal proponent of Park Department realignment, at times turned testy. Virtue, who said she’s looking forward to the change, helped defend it.

Councilman Dave Wodrich said he appreciates their service and hopes the four current Park Board members would stay on as the advisory board. He later said he’s conflicted whether to support park reorganization or not.

Wodrich also clarified for the record that he didn’t vote either yes or no Sept. 24 to have the park ordinance drafted for consideration, not knowing he could have abstained. Town attorney Greg Sobkowski said a roll call rather than a voice vote avoids confusion.

Nelson recommended that three of the seven advisory board appointments not be limited to Porter residents and represent Duneland seniors, local business and a civic organization. She also announced current Park Board members Ross LeBleu and Charles Kaufman have indicated they would serve on a park advisory board to set goals and make non-binding recommendations.

Councilman Rob Pomeroy was present Tuesday; councilman Greg Stinson was out of town.

Nelson said although park reorganization has its merits, “Until the last minute I’m going to listen.” Bailey suggested if the town is going to make the change, get it done because Porter doesn’t need prolonged controversy.

 

 

Posted 10/9/2013