Voices were raised and tensions escalated last week when the parks, recreation and senior advisory board convened for a meeting that included what some attendees thought would be a presentation of recommendations regarding problem areas in Puyallup’s parks and recreation department.
Instead, the board received a presentation about the process the city manager-appointed analyst team of six has taken in the past two months.
“(The presentation) became a strained exercise because we didn’t have content,” interim City Manager Bill McDonald said. “There is so much misinformation out there, and speculation, that it wasn’t helpful.”
For the past eight weeks, while the management analyst team has explored the parks department through interviews with department heads and site tours, many rumors have been churning among those who are passionate for parks programs. They include talks of the city wanting to sell the parks and recreation center property on Valley Avenue or selling the senior center.
McDonald said they are only rumors. And he insisted the recommendations presented to the city council are just options.
The management analyst team was set to make those recommendations after press time at Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
Prior to the meeting, McDonald said the report presented will be level-headed and not draconian, as some people fear.
“It’s an exercise to look at what we do and how we do it,” he said.
Council member John Hopkins said he and other council members know as much as city residents of what the recommendations might be.
However, Hopkins believes there should be more transparency in the process and more responsibility given to the parks board to be part of that process, including more latitude given on deciding final recommendations made to the council.
“The board should be involved in the decision making as to what our priorities are,” Hopkins said. “They should be as powerful as the planning commission. They have been under-utilized for years, and it’s a shame. That’s a board that should be doing good for the city.”
Dixie Gatchel, a member of the Friends of the Riverwalk Trail, attended the board meeting Feb. 11 and said the parks board didn’t have a say in any of the methods the management analyst team used.
“The city manager and council have to explain their goal and why they bypassed the parks board, because the parks board is my representative,” Gatchel said.
McDonald said he didn’t intend to present recommendations to the parks board.
“I don’t want to filter it through anybody,” he said. “Once the council gets the recommendations, they can send it to the parks board. It becomes theirs. It’s an internal management report now.
“Right now, it’s me and my team looking at a department about what we see.”