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Purpose of Parks and Recreation Commission discussed

Parks and Recreation Commission member Barry Mathison, right, talks about working with the Roswell City Council’s General Services Committee during a meeting of the Parks and Recreation Commission on Monday at the Parks Department Administration Office, 1101 W. Fourth St. From left are commission member Kim Elliott, Parks Department Administrative Assistant Sharene Brooks, Commission Chair JaneAnn Oldrup, Special Services Director Jim Burress and his wife, Vicki, and commission member Meagan Sanders. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Members of the Roswell Parks and Recreation Commission discussed at their meeting Monday how the commission can become more respected in its role in city government.

The discussion started when James Edwards, who represents the Roswell Independent School District School Board on the commission, asked what is the purpose of an ad-hoc recreation facilities committee that had its first meeting last month.

That temporary committee, whose members are City Councilors Barry Foster, Jacob Roebuck, Jeanine Best and Margaret Kennard, met for the first time Oct. 1. Without a quorum — Kennard and Best were not present — Foster and Roebuck led city staff and community members present in an informal discussion they said was intended to help start forming a philosophy or vision for the city’s parks.

The committee has also been charged by Mayor Dennis Kintigh to present a list of five or six parks projects with budget recommendations. A second meeting of the ad hoc committee has not yet been scheduled.

In response to Edwards’ question, Jim Burress, city special services director, explained the need for a standard definition of the different types of city parks versus green spaces.

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“So with this new committee, what in the world are we doing?” commission member Barry Mathison asked.

Commission member Kim Elliott said the city council and administration do not seem to regard the Parks and Recreation Commission with much respect and that the commission should take a more proactive approach to its mission.

That mission, according to city code, is to act in an advisory capacity to the city council and city manager in all matters pertaining to public parks, recreation and related facilities. It also is to promote use of the parks and recreation programs and facilities and serve as a forum for public discussion.

“If we are supposed to be doing something more, or something more important, and if we’re to be respected by the city council, mayor, city administration, then there are some things that maybe we must do,” Elliott, a former parks and recreation director for the city, said.

“They have to look at us as an important commission. In my professional opinion, I don’t think they do,” he said.

He suggested that the commission should anticipate the needs of the city’s parks and recreation programs. One way they could do that, he said, is to put together its own list of parks projects in response to the mayor’s charge to the ad hoc committee.

“That way we could be proactive and have something when they — if they — come back to us, we can say we’ve already talked about it,” he said.

“But we’ve not been proactive in some of the things we’ve done. All that we’ve done is react to things General Services (Committee) has sent us or the mayor sent us or something else,” Elliott said.

Burress said one way the commission could improve its communication with the city council and administration is for members to attend the city council’s General Services Committee meetings. That committee includes the parks and recreation departments.

“If you don’t feel like you get listened to and you have a general goal, I need more support at General Services,” he said.

“You need to be heard, but General Services is your avenue to be heard,” he said. “And/or just go to City Hall and park your tail end in (City Manager) Joe Neeb’s office and shut the door,” Burress said.

“But we have done this in the past and been completely ignored on multiple areas,” Mathison said. “That takes away a lot of my motivation. I’m only going to waste my time so long before I’m done.”

Elliott suggested the commission create a schedule of monthly topics for regular meetings, special meetings and public forums.

“If everyone at City Hall knows there’s a certain schedule of things going on, maybe they would look at something far enough in advance that we could address it before it’s too late to send and for them to actually address,” Elliott said.

“We need to look at establishing some sort of schedule with the agenda so that we know exactly what’s going to be addressed,” he said, adding the schedule could still be flexible to allow for other topics that come up. “There should be the topics. It needs to be something to reinvigorate this commission.”

Burress suggested the commission also invite city leaders to the monthly meetings.

“If you think it’s really important, there’s nothing stopping us from having one of the councilors at this meeting. If you have something that you feel is important, instead of you going there, let’s bring one of them here,” he said.

No vote was taken on the discussion but commission members agreed to put discussion and possible action on a schedule of topics on next month’s agenda.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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