We’ll start off by asking a few things about your or the city council’s priorities for this year.
One of the things that we have is just this last Thursday, we had a strategic planning workshop as we evaluated what has been the city’s basics strategic plan. Then we looked at that from the standpoint of where we go next.
The kind of the opportune time to make organizational shifts is when you know that you’re going to have changes in your staffing. We have we a couple of retirements taking place and so that provides the opportunity to re-invision maybe where you go next because you’re going to be putting somebody else in that position or in a similar position.
And so our Community Development Director Eric Taylor, he had planned on retiring earlier this year but he’s going to be with us until the first of June or until we replace that position. Matt Hildebrandt who’s been with the city at the pool in some fashion for 40 years is retiring in April.
So we looked at a couple of things...and the council has weighed in that we want to pursue this and that is a reorganization of how we’re set up. Now currently, we have a division of building and planning and code enforcement and community development. Some of that right now, it falls underneath public works. Some of that is under community development.
And so our, our goal is to bring… all those things that are in building in planning and engineering, all that stuff under community development under our current public works — Director John Olson has been with us about four months now. And so there would be a consolidation there, which just makes sense, all that stuff is under one thing. And then and then public works, specific things will be separated between just general public works, as well as the utility operations.
Tom Rosberg has been our utilities manager and is also retiring at the end of the year. That requires some rethinking of what we’re doing with that. We put out for an RFP (request for proposal) with the potential of looking at contract services to run the wastewater treatment plant.
Whatever happens with that is going to dictate some of the ways you have to organize.
Are you managing a contract with somebody who’s doing it? Or, are you managing all your employees who are doing it and your level of supervision for that is obviously different. If you have a contractor who is responsible for doing that, then you’re managing — are they doing what they contracted to do?
With the reorganization of community development taking on part of public works — building planning, code enforcement and some of those things under that umbrella — then, we are looking at the creation of a recreation and events director who would be responsible for the RV park, the Cultural Center, Beachfront Park and parks from the standpoint of maintaining the parks as well as planning for future activities in the parks. And then that would also be responsible for the overall supervision of the pool and its staff as opposed to having a pool manager, which is what Matt Hildebrandt is now.
We’ve been looking at having an aquatic supervisor, somebody who has the basic responsibility to supervise the lifeguards and so forth. And then I’d like a relief supervisor but it wouldn’t be at that level of where it is now. Instead that would be under this new recreation and events director coordinator position that would help hopefully build out some future activities and make use of that asset that we have down there now.
They’re both — the pool as well as Beachfront Park — really underutilized. We need to find ways to do that but we’ve never had that person who’s responsible for that. Whose job is to market the city. Whose job is to create activities and so forth in the city. That doesn’t exist.
The recent pool swim camp, the coordination of working with the county recreation department proved really quickly if you plan good events, the community will show up. I mean, that was for 60 kids and it sold out in 24 hours. All the registration was done in 24 hours and that was (response) to Facebook posts. It’s all the advertising there was and 60 slots were filled in in 24 hours.
Clearly we can do more with the assets that we have. And having somebody that that’s their job, to make sure we’re doing that, is part of the whole reorganization structure.
But can I interrupt? You say the parks and the pool are under-utilized...could you be a little bit more specific about what you like to see down at those places?
I think I’ll start with the park. I think that we need to, and this is another one of the things we spoke about at our strategic planning meeting, is to go back and update the Beachfront Park master plan. That was completed in 2012. That was finished all the way back when I was still in the planning commission and it’s a great plan. But of that, much still is yet to be realized. Other than the dog park, and I’m very thankful for that.
But with the fact that we’re going to have half of Front Street redone this year, it’s time to start really thinking about, OK, what are these pieces in this? Do we do we really need to push forward? We have opportunity for Prop 68 money, to apply for grant money. That there’s millions of dollars going to be made available. We have $200,000 that we get without making application. But then there’s there’s millions of dollars in this Prop 68 fund that can be applied.
In answer your question, one of the things I think we absolutely need is we need regular concerts in the park of some sort. They do it up in Azalea Park in Brookings. It’s very successful. And with that, if there’s funding available to look at building an amphitheater, and that does fit the criteria of this Prop 68 grant money then we need to find a way to do that.
We need that area that’s dedicated, that makes it easy to say, well, we’re going to start having concerts in the park. And it’s right here. We have plenty of space to be able to do that. And it may be if we can hire this recreation and events coordinator before we ever have an amphitheatre, that may mean we have a concert in the park, you know, the way they’ve been doing it for Fourth of July. Roll in the trailer and do concerts. We can start there.
The city has never purposely done that. All the things that have happened like that in the park have been because the Chamber of Commerce is doing something...Sea Cruise is doing something. What I think we need to do is take an active role in that and see the value that that is associated with that.
You bring people in here for something, they’ll spend money. I mean we were — (City Manager) Mr. (Eric) Wier and I — were at a recent meeting, League of Cities meeting. They were talking about data from like 2010 that says that even locals if they go out to an event, they spend on average 25 bucks. They go out somewhere. If they come down to the park for a concert, the chances are if there’s any kind of vending available or, or even brick and mortar restaurants, if they come out to go to a concert, they’re going to spend 25 bucks before they get back home.
And so the park thing, the concerts in the park, I think is a really big deal that I think we need to capitalize on. I think that having a recreation director in place would enable us to rethink things like tournaments and so forth. Whether that’s partnering with the Wild Rivers disc golf group and say, hey, we’re going to come alongside you and be co-sponsors with this.
Let’s bring people in whether that’s with local soccer clubs, whatever. We have the space. We just have not had the person dedicated to try to maximize that.
That’s the park side. The pool side, the swim camp just proved to me what I’ve always thought and that is that we can do more with that asset. I mean it’s a huge investment annually to to keep that pool up and running. Right now it costs about $400,000 of general fund dollars to keep it up and running above and beyond what we will we take in, in revenue.
So you’re losing 400,000?
Yeah, it’s a $400,000 investment. The reason I say that, and it is something that we can kind of smile about it, is hat when I came on to the council, there was sort of this sense that it was just losing money. You’re just losing money. You’re just losing money. And I really wanted to change that conversation and change that narrative to we are making an investment on something that’s really important to this community.
Having an indoor heated pool, even though we still are struggling to keep the temperature where it is...having that asset is of great value. There are people who live here because of that. We saw that happen when the golf course closed. There were people who left here because they came here to live here, to retire here, because of that golf course. And they wanted to be able to play golf,... and when it is gone, they’re going to go find some place that had that.
I think the same thing would be true, especially for some of our seniors who take advantage of that pool on a daily basis. So, we continue to make that investment but we need to narrow that gap. If that can be a swim camp type of thing and do that quarterly where we can bring in some extra revenue that exceeds expenses. Now, we were able to do that this first time out because of a grant from Building Healthy Communities. That got us started with it.
We can’t add events that end up costing us money, right?
If you add events and then, well, yeah, we had this wonderful event, 60 kids participated and we only we only lost $1,000 on that one. We can’t do that.
But we’ve got to find ways to do more things in that pool. Two weeks ago, we had a public meeting to talk about the pool master plan. We’re currently working
With… an aquatic consulting firm, nationally known, trying to put together a 10-year master plan. How to do that (make money), looking at the facility, looking at the the operation of the facility, looking at potential programs. All those things and we had about 70 public members who showed up to engage and talk about that. The overwhelming response was this is really important to us. Having this pool is really important to us. There are things we wish you’d get fixed. The shower should be cleaner… the pool should be the temperature should be consistent. But the overwhelming number of people said, we really want this. We need this. This is important to us. We thank you for the programs that are there but we would like to see even more.
I think that the report from the consultant will give us some ideas of… how do we do this.
To narrow this gap from $400,000 to this, this is what you’re going to have to do. It’s going to cost you some money up front to get it done. Do you really want to do that? Do you want to look at it at 10 years? Or do you just want to look at it of whatever’s popular for you for the remainder of your term and then kick it off to somebody else?
So anyway, that’s my take on those things.