Parks and utilities remain separate | News

ASHLAND The Ashland City Commission killed an ordinance to overhaul the Parks Department under the Utilities banner, but that could be in the cards come budget season.

The order presented to the commission would have consolidated the Parks Department into the Utilities Department, which City Manager Mike Graese said would have allowed the two departments to share a workforce.

He said that right now the 10 park maintenance workers and the 25 utility workers tend to overlap. Currently, the parks department is associated with human resources — removing it from the department would allow Parks and Human Resources Manager Shawn Murray to focus on human resources, Graese said.

“It’s a matter of unity of effort,” he said.

From the outset, the commission didn’t have it – commissioner Amanda Clark was the first to speak, stating that she “didn’t feel comfortable with it as it is” and offered to put the order aside for budget discussions in the coming months.

“I don’t know if this is the right time to talk about it,” she said.

Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs said she thinks Parks should be its own entity, separate from any city department. She also agreed with Clark that the budget work sessions might be the appropriate time to reconsider the measure.

Marty Gute, the council’s longest-serving commissioner, said the combination of HR and parks was a move taken because of the city’s inability to fill the HR position. Gute said the city has cut sponsorship for various events, such as Donkey Days, where Gute recalled falling off a donkey named “Big Stupid” and breaking three ribs.

That’s when Spriggs chimed in again, saying she wanted to see city-sponsored events expanded, to include Memorial Day, July 4 and others.

Gute ended his reflection by stating that he was against combining more departments. He said combining parks with utilities could derail the workforce and “scatters it too much”.

Commissioner Josh Blanton said he was “very conservative” about making changes, saying “the department is doing a phenomenal job with parks.”

He said he wanted to see how the numbers performed tax-wise with any kind of rearrangement before making a change – basically, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The ordinance was put to a vote and killed.

Jim Moore, the city attorney, said the ordinance could be reinstated at any time, unlike a zoning change which takes a year to bring up again.

Here are some other developments from the City Commission:

• Demolition of the GB Johnson building began on Thursday, with the first stage being a six-week clean-up. Clark said seeing work begin on the building was emotional for her, as the building has long been an eyesore in the city center.

• The commission was stunned by the SOAR mini-summit that ended Tuesday in Ashland. Each commissioner and Mayor Matt Perkins (who was in inclement weather and was unable to attend) praised city staff, Destination Ashland and local volunteers for making Ashland a welcoming place for the approximately 700 conference participants. Blanton, who replaced Perkins to deliver remarks at the conference, said “we own our city, we own what we do.”

• Clark and Spriggs begged the public to register for the Gravy Bowl on April 2. Spriggs said: “I know there are sauce cookers in the cupboards, we need you to sign up.”

• Gute announced the repair fair, in which local organizations help repair the homes of low-income people. More information on this will be forthcoming in regards to registrations and registrations.

• Graese said so far 30 degraded properties have been cleaned up in the city and, if everything works out with the other properties in the process, 67 structures will have been demolished by the end of the fiscal year.

• Graese also said KYOVA’s policy committee has approved nearly $500,000 in grants for the cityscapes project.

• At first reading, the committee unanimously approved a measure aimed at creating a role of customer service supervisor within the finance department.

• At second reading, the commission approved a $41,000 contract with Palmer Engineering for road improvement and streetscape design work on 15th and 16th Streets. With the help of a grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the city is only responsible for 20% of the contract.

• The commission also approved at second reading administrative changes to police department hiring classifications, an encroachment on Bluegrass Community Federal Credit Union’s right-of-way for a sign and ATM, and a contract extension for the all-inclusive playground at Central Park.

• As in the last meeting, Gute mentioned that he had a cup of coffee at Tim Horton’s to start his day of committee meetings.

• If you are playing Commissioner Lingo Bingo, the word “congratulations” was used six times during the meeting, while the word “echo” was used twice.

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