In spite of protests raised by some city employees and members of the public Tuesday, it looks like legislation combining three city departments into one will be introduced at Thursday’s Marietta City Council meeting.
The proposal, discussed Tuesday at an employee relations committee meeting, would create a public facilities department out of the existing cemetery, recreation and lands, buildings and parks departments.
“I can see combining cemetery and parks, but I can’t see consolidating (the recreation department). We’re just short-changing ourselves,” said Sam Gwinn, former chairman of council’s public lands, buildings and parks committee.
Dave Willison, a past member of the city recreation commission, agreed.
“Recreation should be run as a separate organization. Council needs to look at this before it’s done,” he said. “I don’t think you new councilmen understand all that the recreation department does for this city.”
The city administration proposed the departmental reorganization in January, saying the consolidation would result in one supervisor instead of three, one assistant foreman and a public facilities clerk who would be responsible for the new department as well as for coordination of city recreational facilities and activities.
“We’ve firmly stated that we’re not doing away with recreation in Marietta,” said Mayor Michael Mullen. “And with the current two-person structure in our lands, buildings and parks department, we’re always playing catch-up on grounds and buildings maintenance.
“But we will maintain city recreation at the current level,” he said, noting that if council passes legislation creating the new department there would still be a six-month probationary period during which any potential unforeseen problems could be ironed out.
Mullen said City Law Director Roland Riggs III has the necessary legislation ready.
Councilman Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward, also questioned the wisdom of including the recreation department in the consolidation. He read an e-mail from Connie Grimes who chairs the Marietta Recreation Commission.
“(W)e would like to express our concerns with the combining of city departments,” Grimes wrote. “We, as a commission, have worked way too long and hard to get recreation built up in the city to have it brought down by an unadvised move like this.
“Combining of the other two departments we agree with, but we disagree with including the recreation department,” she added. “If this department was combined, we feel that recreation would take a back seat and the programs would be lost. It is vitally important for the recreation department to have a strong presence in the city.”
Mullen said he had talked with at least one recreation commission member who agreed with his consolidation plan.
The mayor also noted that there would be plenty of time for public comment on the issue after the legislation is introduced on Thursday. Three readings are generally required before legislation can be adopted.