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Rec dept. raise? Council reviews city's park costs

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - Updated: 10:20 AM

By ALISSA SCOTT

alissa.scott@recordernews.com

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler wants to know how much it costs to operate each of the city's municipal parks.

"Not only because it's good information to have," she said Tuesday night, "but because I've been asking for this information and I've already received it from other departments."

Before this year, expenditures for Shuttleworth Park, Riverlink Park, Isabel's Field and Veterans Field were combined. They are now listed separately in the budget, as per the aldermen's request, but there is no back information provided.

Recreation director Robert Spagnola paid a visit to the Common Council Tuesday night to discuss his proposed $408,000 budget.

Hatzenbuhler began asking for the park information in February -- specifically requesting a schedule of games played at Shuttleworth Park for the past three years -- but Spagnola has been unable to provide it.

"I've been busy," Spagnola said. "On top of the other work I have to do, it's very difficult to go back and collect all that information, because it's not on a computer."

Spagnola asked if Hatzenbuhler was looking for something specific, or truly wanted information from each park.

"I mean, two years ago we spent more money at the pool than anywhere else," Spagnola said. "Five years ago we built a baseball field. It varies every year. I don't think there's a trend."

Hatzenbuhler said that's "not where [she's] going with this."

"I want to know what it costs to operate each individual park," she said. "I've asked you to list all these expenses. I guess what I don't understand is why your parks aren't broken down individually so you know what it costs to operate each one."

Third Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. said, to Spagnola's defense, this is how the budget has been set up for years. Spagnola was just following suit.

The Common Council has plans to restructure the entire budget to make it more user-friendly and Barone said this is a change they can make. So in the future, every time a payment is made or sent out for an individual park, it will affect a separate line item.

City Controller Matthew Agresta said he doesn't know why Hatzenbuhler is asking Spagnola for the information when it's all available in his office.

"You're asking people to do double the work, when that could be as easy as you coming into my office and sitting at the computer," Agresta said. "If you come in, you can look at all of that."

Spagnola's proposed recreation budget also requests an increase in his and his assistant's salaries.

Last year, through union negotiations, Spagnola received a $10,000 increase. This year he requested an extra 2 percent.

Agresta requested an explanation, as did the council members.

Spagnola said he doesn't need to be the highest paid department head, but he doesn't think he should be paid $10,000 less than them either. The 2 percent increase helps to get him in line with the second lowest paid department head at $52,000.

This year's expected revenue from recreation totals about $30,000 . It receives revenue from the pool, the softball teams, and state aid youth grants.

     

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