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County, authority could merge

Parks and Recreation Authority members met with the Pike County manager and attorney at the January meeting to discuss Pike’s desire to dissolve the authority and place the parks and recreation property and management under the supervision of the county. *************** ©The Pike County Journal Reporter/pikecountygeorgia.com: This information may not be reprinted, broadcast or distributed electronically in any form or fashion without express consent. For reprint permission, e-mail news@pikecountygeorgia.com. *************** County manager Bill Sawyer said he thinks the county needs to examine taking over three entities, including the parks and recreation and water authorities and library board. ’We have to find ways to be as diligent as we can with the county’s dollars. We had to make some cuts and several of those were heartrending,’ said Sawyer. ‘We have to ask if giving $300,000 a year to a division that runs three programs makes good sense.’ Recreation board member John Hanson said four years ago the authority did not run any programs but now runs basketball, softball and football. He said the authority does more than just that, maintaining facilities and offering community-friendly programs through the year. ’If the county decides how much money we get, aren’t you in essence in charge of the money? You can decide to give us more or less,’ he said. ‘The number one thing I’m concerned about is what are the citizens going to get? We don’t need to back up from where we’re at. We’ve come a long way with what we’ve had and we maintained even with the cuts. Our desire is to add as many programs as possible ‘“ from children to adult leagues. How is the county going to offer more programs?’ The authority agreed to have a joint meeting with county officials and discuss a five year plan to present to county commissioners. Member Jeff Kenerly noted the authority already has a five year plan, including building four fields for adult sports at the facility and continuing to improve existing facilities. ’We’ve done things to help keep Pike from being sued by improving the facilities and improving security to keep children from getting hurt,’ he said. ‘You go out to the fields and you don’t just see kids playing ball, you see neighbors enjoying themselves and talking together. It’s a community place. When people volunteer to help you can expect them to be passionate about it.’ Kenerly said some of the board’s distrust of the county has come from the way the department was run in the past. Member Brad Armistead said when the authority took over from the county it did not even have a computer and the fields were like pastures. ’When we started at the rec department we had to wake up at 5 a.m. and line the fields, cut the grass, weed eat and fix the bathrooms,’ he said. ‘The last two times it was in such bad shape, it was run by the county. All I care about is the kids playing. We were tasked with running an efficient recreation department and I feel like we’ve done that.’ Sawyer said there are several options to consider, including moving forward with the merger in July and keeping existing staff in place, having joint meetings to add additional programs and accountability and looking at merging later or not at all. He said he could not guarantee that no jobs would be lost, adding ‘We’re all at-will employees,’ he said.

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