Weekly Feature



2017-12-07 / Front Page

Highway superintendent report responds to proposed change in parks upkeep

by CHRIS GRAHAM
Editor

Highway Superintendent Fred Piasecki delivered his response to the Town Board last week regarding a September recommendation from the Orchard Park Recreation Commission that the town develop a Parks and Recreation Department to oversee the community’s 10 parks.

While the commission’s report called for a change to recreation being responsible for the parks, Piasecki’s report outlined four neighboring towns — Hamburg, West Seneca, Boston and Amherst — that have their parks overseen by their highway departments.

His report outlines four main points that make highway overseeing parks the common practice: a flexibility to focus human resources in situations of urgency, the minimizing of equipment purchases and maintenance costs by pooling assets, allowing rapid and cost-free access to occasionally needed heavy equipment for major tasks, and fostering cost-saving interdepartmental and intermunicipal cooperation by minimizing the number of negotiating parties.

The report did include that Clarence and Grand Island have separate parks departments that would not report to highway or recreation.

Councilman Eugene Majchrzak asked if Piasecki could contact the parks departments for both municipalities and see what their employees do in the winter.

The commission’s report called for a new organizational structure due to recreation being the primary user of the parks. The report said recreation would be able to prioritize what maintenance would need to be completed in a given park when a request comes in. Currently, the Recreation Department receives a service request and then has to forward it to the Highway Department.

Piasecki noted that communication between the two departments must improve to address the calls for service.

He said the department can be aided by having the Recreation Department communicate its schedule so the department knows when work can be done without impacting the recreation programs. He also said communication between the two can better improve service time for requests.

“It’s a two-way street. You need to have that communication, and if that communication isn’t as up to snuff as it should be, how are we going to make it so that all in all it’s for the betterment of the community that we can take care of these things and act upon them that much quicker,” Piasecki said after the meeting with regard to communication.

The commission report added that with the Highway Department dealing with aging infrastructure in town, the requests have gone up year after year in the parks. Piasecki’s report said the length of town roadway and drainage piping has grown 12 percent in the past 15 years without an addition in staffing or equipment to deal with the increased workload.

If the change to a Parks and Recreation Department is approved by the Town Board, five employees from the Highway Department would work within the parks during its operational season. Councilman Michael Sherry said previously that these employees would move back to highway during the winter months.

Noting that if there is a change in staffing, Piasecki said the commission’s report did not address trails, land taken for future parks as part of the subdivision approval process, public buffers and greenspace, while also managing public buildings such as Veterans Memorial Park, the Orchard Park Library and the Municipal Center. Piasecki asked that if the staff is repurposed, would they be removed from these tasks.

Sherry said these employees may be managed by a different department, but they would maintain the same properties.

Piasecki contended after the meeting that the way the department is handling the parks currently is the most economical and flexible way for the town by not creating divisions of employees.

“It has worked well, and we’re just looking to improve upon it,” Piasecki said.

Before any decision is made, Piasecki said the town should communicate with other entities such as Orchard Park Little League, Little Loop Football, the Engineering Department and the village Department of Public Works, which play a significant role in the parks.

He also suggested the formation of a select committee to put forth a structure the board can mandate. This would include the supervisor, highway superintendent, recreation director or chairman of the Recreation Commission, or respective designees from each.

The Town Board is still assessing what direction it should follow in regard to the maintenance of the parks.

email: cgraham@beenews.com

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