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Orchard Park Recreation should oversee parks, commission says

Most complaints about Orchard Park's seven parks are made to the recreation employees, but they can't fix the problem.

They have to call the Highway Department, which maintains the parks.

But that would change under a proposal by the Orchard Park Recreation Commission. The commission has suggested shifting the parks and park maintenance from the Highway Department to the Recreation Department.

"Until fairly recently, the current organizational structure and division of labor has served the town and its residents well," Audrey Ramage, chairwoman of the commission, told the Town Board. "It also contributed partially to the Recreation Department success in developing new programs.

She said the Highway Department has discharged its duties to parks and playgrounds in a "commendable fashion."

But programs have increased since a full-time recreation director was hired in 2003, she said. There have been more than 800 programs offered annually over the last five years, and revenues have exceeded the cost of those programs for five years, Ramage said.

The increase in programs and participants has placed added strain on the facilities and the timely maintenance of them, as the volume of requests for maintenance increased, she said.

At the same time, "the cumulative impact of the town's development and its aging infrastructure unavoidably and understandably has compelled the Highway Department to focus on its primary responsibility," Ramage added.

The Highway Department has five full-time employees, including the parks foreman, working on parks maintenance. Under the proposal, those five employees would perform those duties exclusively from April 1 through Oct. 31. From Nov. 1 through March 31,  two employees would remain with parks and rec,  while the others would be  loaned to Highway Department for the seasonal work of brush and leaf collection and snowplowing.

Since the Recreation Department issues most permits for park usage, it would be able to schedule maintenance such as mowing, when parks are not in use, said Recreation Commission member Robert Fortenbaugh.

The commission suggested making the change by April 1.

Highway Superintendent Fred Piasecki did not attend the meeting, and only Councilman Michael Sherry had questions on some of the proposals. He said having the Recreation Department act as an "early warning" system to keep up with facilities and prevent issues from becoming big problems made sense to him.

Sherry said the commission's report will be posted on the town's website.





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