Columbia County officials say it's a big step forward that will help them better track their recreation department in the future.
The purchase of new computer software, which will cost about $60,000, comes in light of a 2005 audit that found the county's recreation department lacking "a sound internal control structure" as it relates to the assessment, collection and recording of fees.
"The software will provide recreation with the needed tools to make the job more efficient and to put in place a tracking system to immediately improve fiscal accountability," said Barry Smith, the county's Community and Leisure Services director.
The 2005 audit specifically focused on the operation of the Patriots Park gym, noting that "patrons whose memberships have expired are still being allowed access into the gym facilities without renewing their memberships."
In March, Charlie Beale, Columbia County's recreation director, blamed an antiquated computer system for reporting people accessing the gym with an expired membership when he says they never did so.
Mr. Smith said the new software will allow the county to better track memberships at the Patriots Park gym and also keep tabs on which programs are the most popular. The software even will begin allowing people to sign up and pay for their children to join a recreation sports program online.
Mr. Smith said the new software also will allow the county to keep an ongoing track of its cost-to-revenue ratio for Patriots Park gym. He said about eight months ago he conducted a cost analysis of the gym and found that it costs about $100,000 more a year to operate than it generates in revenue.
"This will certainly assist recreation in a systematic way to track revenues, and it will make audits much more simplistic," Mr. Smith said.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New software used by Columbia County's Recreation Department has an online payment function for department sports programs. Children who haven't registered before will still need to do so in person at Patriots Park with a birth certificate, but those returning to a program can use the county's Web site: www.columbia countyga.gov.