Agencies put the brakes on program merger

Parks and Recreation, Community Education evaluate options

A merger between Camas Parks and Recreation and Camas Community Eduction has been put on hold while both entities do more research and hammer out the details.

“Basically, we would like to do a slower transition,” said Mary Weishaar, CCE director.

Weishaar spoke briefly to the Camas School Board about the proposal at Monday night’s meeting.

“We want to look through things and maybe use the Camas Community Center more,” she said. “I know there are a lot of questions and concerns, and we are trying to figure out what the best thing would be.”

According to Camas City Administrator Pete Capell, Parks and Recreation and the School District have been providing similar competing or overlapping recreational programs for many years.

“We plan to still move forward with the merger, however, Jan. 1 is too soon to complete the work that is necessary,” he said. “We are considering delaying the transition until the spring or summer of 2017, so we can work out all of the details and be better prepared to implement a successful program.”

Discussions about merging the programs first began in the early 2000s. More recently, at a joint City Council and School Board retreat in 2015, the two elected bodies directed staff to consolidate the programs.

Originally, the plan was to move all classes to school district facilities, but now the two entities are re-evaluating that idea.

Community Education programs are self-sustaining, while Parks and Recreation programs receive city subsidies, Capell noted.

Tammy Connolly, who currently works as the Parks and Recreation programs coordinator, would serve in a new position of city volunteer coordinator. The intent is to have a clearinghouse for all volunteer activities in the city and recruit volunteers, match projects with peoples’ skills and interests, and provide training.

“It is not efficient use of limited local government resources to provide similar services in the same mid-sized city,” Capell said. “It can operate much more efficiently under one organization. In parks, the library and many other city departments, our staffing level has not kept pace with increases in population, number of parks, miles of trails and miles of streets. The staff do the best job they can with current resources, but a professionally coordinated volunteer program will assist city personnel in completing badly needed maintenance or service projects. The volunteer coordinator is a high priority for the Parks and Recreation Commission.”

Camas resident Eben Lowy spoke at the meeting regarding the potential merger.

“Camas Parks and Recreation is intensely popular,” he said. “Those programs have value and rather than immediately bringing them together, let’s provide the best programs we can for the area. I am really glad the decision was made to slow things down.”