Puyallup’s interim city manager is proposing organizational changes that could bring more focus to the bottom line of the city’s parks and recreation department.
Bill McDonald, who was hired to replace departing City Manager Ralph Dannenberg last summer, wants to sharpen efficiencies in the parks staff, recreation programs and property management.
In a special meeting Friday, McDonald asked the City Council to join him in taking a closer look at proposed changes.
“There are options available to run recreation programs which do not have such a high personnel component,” he said. “Programs that can cover a high percentage or all of their operating cost should rise to the top. Programs that are high overhead with little cost recovery should be pruned.”
Council member Kent Boyle defended popular programs such as Puyallup’s concerts in the park and the haunted hay ride, saying that although they have high overhead and low-cost recovery, they should be kept.
“It’s my goal that we don’t throw away programs that are successful only because they don’t make money,” Boyle said.
Boyle said the city should take a harder look at the private sector for sponsorship of these events.
Council member John Hopkins reminded the council that the 2013 budget it adopted last week already made parks and recreation cuts of $236,000.
“The cuts to the programs were probably the most horrifying thing in the budget,” Hopkins said.
McDonald said he’d also like the council to look at more efficiencies in property and facilities management. He noted the underperformance of the recreation center, the Memorial Center, and the Pioneer Park Pavilion. He said the pavilion doesn’t have a business model that allows it to break even.
In terms of staffing, McDonald said he’s in no hurry to fill the vacant parks and recreation director position. Instead, three lower-level managers will report as a group to him, while some other duties will be reassigned to the public works director.
McDonald, a former DuPont city manager, came out of retirement in August to accept the interim Puyallup job. Dannenberg left the city in July after a breakdown in his relationship with a majority of the council. Before holding the city manager job for two years, Dannenberg was Puyallup’s parks director for nearly 13 years.