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Perkins said that, years ago, he asked former Guilford County
Manager David McNeill why the county didn't run its own parks, and the answer McNeill always gave him was that it was more efficient to outsource that work. Perkins said that now County Manager Brenda Jones Fox and others are saying the exact opposite: that the county can save money by eliminating a management fee it now pays to those who run the county's parks.
Commissioner Paul Gibson said he's always had reservations about taking the park contracts away from the towns and cities. Gibson said he likes the fact that Guilford County
has a good working relationship with other local governments when it comes to running the parks.
Commissioner Linda Shaw, who voted in June with the rest of the board to take over the parks, said she was torn on the best course of action.
"I'm not really sure where I am right now," she said. "A lot of it, for me, may come down to, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it.'"Guilford County
Assistant Manager Sharisse Fuller, who's also the county's human resources director, said she has been working on the personnel issue involved in the county adding the new parks employees, but she said that she didn't know when she would "get the go ahead" to put the 30 full-time parks workers and 19 part-time workers on the county payroll.
At the August 9 work session, Commissioner Mike Winstead, who also voted to take over the parks, questioned whether taking over the operation of the parks from Greensboro, Gibsonville and Jamestown would lead to a duplication of jobs and potentially an ability for the county to reduce parks staff.
Winstead said this week that he did get an answer to that question.
"My understanding was that existing staff would stay in place," Winstead said.
He added that could change at some point in the future.
"I believe I was told that, as we progressed, in the management there could be less staffing," Winstead said.
Alston, who's stepping down from the Board of Commissioners in December after 20 years on the board and who voted to take over the parks, said he believes the county can in fact save money by bringing the park operations in-house.
Alston said that Guilford County
pays – on top of what it cost to actually operate and keep up the parks – about 8 to 10 percent of the parks' budget in management fees. Alston said Guilford County
already has a Human Resources Department that can handle employee paperwork, etc. – so it's inefficient, Alston said, to pay the management fee to provide that type of service.
"I hope we go through with it," Alston said.
Yow and other commissioners argue that once the county discovers the real cost of the move, has to hire additional staff, buy some new equipment and pay the other costs associated with running a parks and recreation department, in hindsight an 8 to 10 percent management fee might look like, not just a good deal, but a great one. Adding to the potential costs is the fact that the county has absolutely no experience running parks.
Still, Alston said that all the major questions about the transition have been answered to his satisfaction and he believes the county can save money and the issue should not even be a subject of conversation at this point.
"We talked about this months ago," Alston said.
Alston said Guilford County
Property Management Director Sandy Woodard has been given many of the responsibilities of moving the five parks under Guilford County
Woodard said that, in light of the June vote by the Board of Commissioners, she, Fuller, and other county staff have been working toward the county's takeover of the park maintenance and upkeep. She added that it is no simple transition.
"There's a lot more to it than just moving people over," Woodard said.
For instance, several contracts for lifeguards and mowing and landscape need to be bid out. Woodard and other county staff have been studying which contracts should be bid new when the county takes over the parks. Staff must also assess the equipment available and the equipment needs and take care of many other details before a shift of this nature takes place.
As for equipment, she said Guilford County
should be in pretty good shape.
"The county owns most of the equipment used at the parks," Woodard said.
In the meantime, the park workers are saying they need to plan for their future – so they would like to know if the county is going to hire them. And they would preferably like to know something before midnight on Dec. 31.
Unlike the county, which has told the parks workers nothing, the towns and cities that manage the parks for the county have told the workers something: namely that, according to the Guilford County
2012-2013 budget adopted in June, money to the towns and city to pay for running the parks comes to an end on Dec. 31, 2012.