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Recreation department seeks $4.6 million more in budget

Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013 10:23 PM
Last updated Friday, Sept. 27, 2013 2:26 AM
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New Augusta Recreation, Parks and Facilities Director Robert Levine has some new initiatives in the works, but they come at a price: The department is asking for about $4.6 million more in the 2014 general fund budget.

Susan McCord
Government Reporter
Twitter: @reportr1
E-mail | 706-823-3215

The department is seeking $18.1 million to manage the city’s recreation programs, parks and facilities, including $581,730 to manage Augusta Municipal Golf Course. The total request is a 34 percent increase over its 2013 budget of $13.5 million.

Levine, during a budget presentation to three Augusta commissioners Thursday, said he included the golf course figure because the city “may very well be operating it” through the year. After several efforts to privatize the course failed, the commission voted earlier this year to seek more proposals from outside vendors, although a formal Request for Proposals hasn’t been issued. Levine said if kept in-house, the golf course could become self-sustaining in three years.

While the department overall is not self-sustaining, it does generate revenue, including $1.2 million in recreation program and event revenue during 2013, according to the presentation.

Sports events held at Diamond Lakes Regional Park, Augusta Aquatics Center and Newman Tennis Center had an economic impact of about $7.6 million, Levine said.

The programs and facilities also provided space for some 14,305 probationers to complete community service and 341 youth and part-time workers to get job experience.

“The things they learn are how to work, how to be on time, and how to provide customer service,” Levine said.

New additions to the programs included in the proposal are:

• An outdoor adventure program

• A mobile playground

• Increased training to prevent head injuries

• Criminal background checks for program volunteers and employees who work with the elderly

• The purchase, for $170,000, of two high-capacity rotary mowers that do three times the grass cutting and will free up four staffers to do more labor-intensive mowing of medians and parks

• Creation of mowing “districts” with set schedules and other landscape enhancements

• A “maintenance impact fee” of $1 per out-of-town participant

Asked by Commissioner Marion Williams about the potential for Augusta to create a regional water park such as Statesboro’s, Levine said the department had examined the options and found it might be better suited for a private developer. Statesboro spent $4 million on the park, with another $4 million from other sources, Levine said.

Commissioner Donnie Smith asked about potentially combining some of Augusta’s 69 parks.

“If we had 25 great parks, it’s better than having 69 half-maintained parks,” Smith said.

Levine said a recreation master plan in the works will examine the options. City Administrator Fred Russell said in the past commissioners didn’t want to give up a park in their district.

Recreation was not alone in seeking more money in the next fiscal year, which starts in January. Nearly all the departments that presented their budget requests Thursday wanted more, although few provided specific dollar amounts at the workshop.

Superior Court, for instance, needs $477,000 to remedy a problem with audio-visual conduits at the new courthouse.

Juvenile court will need at least $56,000 more than this year to implement legislative juvenile justice reforms, known as Children in Need of Services, or CHINS, according to Juvenile Court Judge Jennifer McKinzie.

The CHINS “are like the warning light on a car,” McKinzie said. “Some of the most important cases you will ever see.”

Commissioner Bill Fennoy repeated his concern about juvenile court’s lack of a black judge to sentence its majority-black juvenile clientele, but McKinzie said the department was color-blind.

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countyman 09/26/13 - 11:54 pm

I like the idea of combining some of the smaller and underused parks around the county.

The county desperately needs 3 new parks and maybe the fourth at Regency Mall(lake approved in Splost, outdoor sports complex, and park).

The CBD needs the urban park with greenspace/bridge/waterfalls, the Augusta Greenway, or both of them.

The Augusta Exchange needs some type of green space to hold community events/attract private sector commerical/residential growth nearby, and not really a park setting.

South Augusta can use a town center/urban village development on Mike Padgett between Goshen rd/Brown road or Peach Orchard between Willis Foreman/city limits of Hephzibah(Hwy 88). A large nice park would definitely become the signature part of the development.

truthsetmfree 09/27/13 - 12:15 am

I want to express my concern that we don't have bi-racial commissioners to over see the districts with both black and white constituents.

nocnoc 09/27/13 - 06:37 am
You know what?

I want more $$$$.
But it seems the only way I am going to get more $$$$$, is if the ARC QUITS wanting more.

Many of you have become confused, it appears many of you think it is contest to see who can out spend the other.

Your job is Leadership, not playing "Daddy Warbucks" using our wallets.

raul 09/27/13 - 06:57 am
If RC is to avoid going the

If RC is to avoid going the way of Detroit and other cities, the ability to distinguish wants versus needs has to become a reality.

Pops 09/27/13 - 11:14 am
Why does he want this?

"Commissioner Bill Fennoy repeated his concern about juvenile court’s lack of a black judge to sentence its majority-black juvenile clientele, but McKinzie said the department was color-blind."

Does he want lax sentencing......stricter sentencing.....rewards?

my.voice 09/27/13 - 02:09 pm
Heck, I want more money.

Heck, I want more money. There is no more. Thank you.

raul 09/27/13 - 02:15 pm
The new kid on the block

The new kid on the block walks in with a budget request increase of 34% above last years. I don't see this going well at all. Everyone wants more money. Commissioner Smith has the right idea start combining parks. Eliminate overhead. Marion wants a water park. What about the 3 million dollar veranda downtown? Can you imagine if some of these commissioners ran your household budget?

mdl1946 09/28/13 - 08:20 pm
Robert Levine

Are you serious--if you really want that budget------you should be fired.

Sell the Patch to any one for any thing.It is the worst golf course within 100 miles.

A mobile play ground????"so it will be easy to steal!!!"

It is a crime , if the rec. dpt. is NOT ALREADY DOING BACKGROUND CHECKS on all volunteers and employees.

How can you have a$477,000 problem with audio-visual CONDUITS in a brand new building?????????????????????
I guess Mr Fennoy wan'ts only black deputies responding to a black criminal??

mdl1946 09/28/13 - 08:22 pm
what happened to my comment

what happened to my comment

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