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Parks department discusses priorities

Lorna McDaniel

The Douglas County Parks and Recreation Commission met Thursday for six hours in front of a standing-room-only-crowd to prioritize services because of a pending a budget cut.

About 100 people packed the old courthouse in Minden, 30 of them standing in line to give what amounted to two hours of public comment. The meeting ended at 12:45 a.m. Friday.

In a memo from parks and recreation director Scott Morgan, the commission was asked to decide which programs and services were considered most important to the community.

Representatives of various volunteer groups that provide youth, family and senior activities all spoke, hoping to be considered a priority by the commission.

The commission found core funding to keep all Douglas County parks, the Round Hill bike path and Whittell High School tennis courts open as top priority. Not increasing charges to youth sports was the commission’s next highest priority.

However, Morgan said he didn’t know how safe these positions were high on the list because it would depend on the amount of the budget cut.

“If it’s a large amount,” he said, “we’re going to get pretty high on that list.”

One thing is almost certain to be cut – occupying the last position on the list of priorities – are the hungry ducks at Lampe Park.

The parks department feeds the birds during the winter at a cost of $200.

Service and facility cuts compiled by Tracy Novak, parks superintendent would include staff cuts, closing facilities, fertilizer reduction and reducing maintenance and lighting to ballfields.

Novak added that loss of staff would hamper the removal of graffiti, which is now cleaned up within 24-hours.

Rhonda Hicks of the Douglas County cooperative extension said she heads a 4-H program that has more than 200 members.

She said charging the kids to use the fairgrounds would result in a drop in enrollment by 50 percent.

She added that a 1995 survey of Douglas teens found that 80 percent of the teens said that when they didn’t have transportation, their favorite pastime was hanging around.

One plan by Brian Fitzgerald to off set these costs called for use fees.

Dennis Buckley, president of the Carson Valley Girls Softball Association, which has 500 members, said that the proposed $15 per player fee increase, combined with the cost of ballfield maintenance falling on the clubs, would push sports out of reach for many kids.

Other organizations represented included Carson Valley AYSO, Little League, Pop Warner, FAA and equestrian clubs.

The lost of youth activities was said to be a factor contributing to gang activities, said one parent.

She said she lived in a town of 20,000 that didn’t have recreation available to youth.

In the place of recreation there were eight gangs, she said.

She added that there were drive-by shooting and the kids vandalized the parks.

Parks and recreation commission Stan Lamb agreed.

“Charging more for youth sports would create more problems in the future,” Lamb said. “We either pay now or pay later.”

Many youth also spoke to the commission.

Scott Morgan said despite the importance of each service, given Douglas County’s financial crisis, the time has come to make a priority list because the parks and recreation department is funded through a flat transient occupancy tax.

County Manager Dan Holler said in an interview that the room-tax fund has been flat for the last few years.

He explained that because 92 percent of the room tax revenue comes from the Lake, where no casino expansion is possible, revenues are not able to keep up with inflation.

Increased competition in the gaming industry has contributed to the flattened tax, Holler said.