Town of Pulaski to residents: Parks aren’t closing

Attention Pulaski residents! The Town of Pulaski is not planning to close or abandon any of its parks.

That was the message from Town Manager Shawn Utt on Tuesday during further discussion on the future of the town’s Parks and Facilities department.

Utt, at town council’s direction, presented an alternative budget proposal last week that included some $160,000 in budget savings – a portion of which would be achieved through the phase out by December of the Parks and Facilities Department.

Utt presented council on Tuesday a draft of a transition plan that would divert the duties and responsibilities of the Parks and Facilities Department to Community Development and Public Works.

Utt said he believes the transition plan would spread the work of Parks and Facilities properly between maintenance through Public Works, while providing the “feel good community oriented programming” under Community Development.

“We’re not proposing the closing of parks, we’re not proposing that we get rid of any facilities,” Utt stated in reference to concerns expressed by many residents in the past week who feared the elimination of the Parks and Facilities Department would mean the elimination of parks and other facilities in the town.

“This is simply a transition plan from one operational structure to another,” Utt continued.

Utt added the town is looking to expand its park offerings by seeking grant funding for a new basketball / skate park on First Street and a park in the Kersey Bottom area. Plus, discussions have been held on a long range plan – three to five years from now – for a dog park somewhere in the town.

According to the transition plan, Parks and Facilities currently maintains several existing recreational facilities in the town. They are:

  • Kiwanis Park
  • 6th Street Park
  • Valley Street Park
  • Heritage Park
  • Cool Springs Field
  • Macgill Park / Skatepark
  • Jackson Park / Gazebo
  • Dora Connector Trail
  • Mountain Bike Trail System at Draper Mountain

Currently the department also oversees the vendor operations at Gatewood Park and Reservoir; the Senior Center, and the Historic Train Station and Community Garden. The department also acts as the intermediary with the Friends of the Ratcliffe Museum Board and is main town staff support for special events in the town.

Vice Mayor Greg East termed the plan “good for the short term,” but said he expects council – with two new members coming onboard – would have to take up the transition plan early in the next fiscal year to settle on a more permanent plan.

Mayor Nick Glenn, citing earlier discussion, said it appeared the desire of council was to table a decision on the 2018-19 budget proposal – including the elimination of Parks and Facilities – until a council work session next Tuesday, June 26.

Councilman H.M. Kidd, however, suggested going on with budget approval immediately in the face of a June 30 deadline for budget approval.

“We can adopt it now and tinker with the transition plan later,” Kidd said out of concern something could happen to make council miss the June 30 deadline.

Kidd then offered a motion to approve the latest budget plan, however, it failed for lack of a second.

Glenn suggested council look over the transition plan further and be prepared to discuss it again at their July 3 meeting.

Councilman Joseph Goodman, participating in the meeting via a Skype connection from his hotel room in Houston where he was away on business, suggested giving the public another chance to voice their opinions on the spending plan, considering the changes that have been made since the holding of an earlier public hearing on Utt’s first budget proposal.

Council then voted to table two resolutions, one to approve the latest budget proposal and the other on the town’s Capital Improvement Plan, until Tuesday, June 26 at 6 p.m. The votes each passed 5-1, with Kidd voting “no” on each.

There will be a time for public comment on the budget at the Tuesday meeting.