Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko is expecting to distribute a consultant’s report on the feasibility of renovating the animal shelter to the Board of Commissioners this week.
Benko made that statement to the Board at its work session at the Community Center in Veterans Park on Tuesday.
Benko said he also would send copies of the report to the members of the Animal Control Advisory Board as soon as the consultant’s report is in his hands.
Also at the work session, new Commission Chair John Daniel said he recommends that the county hire an outside consultant to help it determine the true costs of its recreation programs at the county’s parks.
Daniell also said he thinks the county needs to move forward with a master plan for the county’s parks as soon as possible.
The Board also discussed beginning discussions with the Board of Education on ways in the future to share recreational facilities.
The Board had scheduled seven hours for its meeting on Tuesday but wrapped up its work in an hour after getting through all of the nine items on the agenda.
Discussion of the county’s Animal Control Department was near the top of the agenda, and Daniell told the Board that “facility upgrades down there is going to be a topic for the next few months.”
The Animal Shelter is located at 1171 Branch Road off U.S. 441 in the far south of the county.
The Commission agreed on Sept. 6 of last year to hire Tevis Architects, with an office in Atlanta, to evaluate the existing Animal Control facility and offer recommendations on what can be done to improve and expand the facility.
Cost of the work was not to exceed $10,000.
Feb. 8 Meeting
Benko told the Board that the request for proposals for the facility review did not include “a hard date for the deliverable, the report.”
He said he was expecting the report by the end of the week.
Benko said Tevis was asked to look at the existing facility, focusing on electrical and structural issues, to see if it can be expanded.
Benko said the consultant is to address whether the facility should be located elsewhere, but it is not expected to evaluate a location.
Catlyn Vickers, director of the Animal Control Department, has been advocating for a new facility, arguing that the existing building and location are inadequate for the county’s needs.
Benko said he expected the Animal Control Board to take up the Tevis report at its first meeting of 2017, scheduled for Feb. 8.
Daniell began the conversation about the Parks and Recreation Department by noting that there are two different operations of the department, what he called the “park side” and what he called the “program side.”
Daniell said the difficulty has been getting a picture of the costs of the “true operation” of the parks and of the programs separately.
“What I’d like to see is a third party come in and do the dissection” of the costs, Daniell said.
The Parks and Recreation Department runs a wide range of programs, from after school programs to adult athletic programs and yoga classes.
Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry has said his staff is stretched and he needs guidance from the Board about the future of the programs.
Daniell said the county has put off doing a master plan for county recreational facilities in order to spend available money to bring additional recreational fields online.
Within 12 to 18 months, he said, there should be money available to do a master plan.
Commissioner Mark Thomas suggested this would be a time to look at the county’s agreement with the Board of Education on joint use of facilities.
Gentry said the joint use agreement runs for 10 years, and the current one should expire in 2018.
“It took about six years to come to an agreement,” Gentry said. “So we probably ought to start that conversation with the Board of Ed about the future beyond 2018.”
I was not able to attend the meeting on Tuesday, but Penny Mills did attend and recorded a video of the entire session.
The county did not provide microphones for the commissioners, and it is difficult to hear Daniell and some of the other commissioners at times in the video.
I did increase the volume slightly in the editing process, but I could not increase it more because of the background noise.
The discussion of Animal Control begins at 12:40 in the video, and the discussion of Parks and Recreation begins at 21:00.
Finally some real attention being paid to solve problems other than how to benefit business construction in the north 20% of the County.
Apparently simply listening to the hand-wringing of involved citizens hasn't been of much benefit in being of assistance to real-world problems.
Starting with the smaller issue of Animal Control is a good beginning.
The Parks and Recreation mess will be much more thorny to address.
P&R usage is much higher. The budgetary cutbacks have squeezed maintenance dry with more being done with less only with the attention of a dedicated few.
Equipment is worn out, supplies are inadequate, and full-time staff is overwhelmed, while usage is heavy.
One can bet that a consultant's report in that very popular arena will be quite interesting. Perhaps even shocking.
As stated earlier, as long as Parks and Recreation is serving ONLY Oconee County Residents! All others should be paid events and all other participants should pay all costs associated with their participation (salaries, equipment , maintenance, etc.)
The after school day care program needs to be eliminated. The county should not be in the daycare business. OCPRD only charges $15 per day to provide transportation, snacks, etc.. from the time school gets out until 6:00 pm. $15 wont even cover the expense of the transportation from school. Get rid of it or charge full price.
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