Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter disbands Park Board; Council to oversee Park Department

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The Porter Park Board was disbanded Tuesday on a 3-2 Town Council vote.

Elka Nelson, Rob Pomeroy and Jeannine Virtue voted to re-establish the Department of Parks and Recreation by giving the council full authority and responsibility to operate public parks, playgrounds, recreational facilities and programs.

Virtue, the council’s Park Department liaison, said she anticipates a smooth transition.

Voting no were council members Greg Stinson and David Wodrich. After the meeting Wodrich said, “I felt the current Park Board has done a lot for the parks and they did not favor this decision.”

Park Board member Jeff Bailey disagreed. “This is a good move for now because of the budgetary reasons, and (park director) Brian (Bugajski) is a very capable manager who doesn’t need four people pulling his strings.”

Proponents of dumping the Park Board maintain it will save the town about $6,000 by eliminating stipends for the board and a secretary, and allowing better utilization of town manpower and equipment. Bugajski previously said he has a commitment to his job and town residents, no matter who oversees the Park Department.

This was the third meeting at which the fate of the Park Board was considered, but there was barely any discussion Tuesday from council members or the public, even when Nelson invited comments.

The only person speaking under earlier audience participation was Roy Olson of the Bud’s Buddies friends of the parks group. He said disbanding the Park Board to save money “seems like an awful lame excuse to me.”

Nelson said the revamped Park Department, now under the direction of the council and park director, still welcomes volunteers. Olson said Park Board members did a lot for the parks and he urged council members to do the same.

Virtue, too, invited park volunteers to continue their involvement. “People who volunteer now because they love the parks, I assume that will continue.”

The ordinance restructuring the Park Department allows the council to create a citizens park advisory board, but no action was taken last night. Virtue said three of the four Park Board members have expressed interest in being on an advisory board.

Board member Rondi Wightman has spoken out against the Park Department change.

Virtue said the council hasn’t discussed whether the job description for Bugajski, hired earlier this year, will need to be changed.

He reported the annual Boo Bash children’s Halloween party is Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hawthorne community building. Games, treats and a costume contest are planned. He also said community-building rentals are filling up fast for the holidays and urged renters to call 921-1687 to make reservations.

Bugajski thanked Bailey for electrical work he did at Hawthorne, and reminded residents there’s still time to turn in a survey seeking input on an update of the Park Department’s five-year plan.

 

Posted 10/23/2013