Monday, May 22, 2017

Oconee County Commission Chair Tells Citizens That Park Needs Compete With Other County Demands

Roads Mentioned

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell last week had a simple message for the Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs and representatives of the citizen Stakeholders Committee that is updating the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Daniell said the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget contains only one new full-time position, and that will go to the Parks and Recreation Department.

Daniell said that the proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax budget for Fiscal Year 2018 includes $2 million for completion of multi-use fields at Oconee Veterans Park.

That is on top of the $.8 million in SPLOST money budgeted to pay against the debt for purchase of the land for and construction of Oconee Veterans Park.

But there is a limit to what the county can do, Daniell said, and when the county spends nearly as much on Parks and Recreation from its General Fund Budget as it spends on roads in the county, it raises questions.

Agenda Items

Daniell’s made his comments at the end of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Recreational Affairs last Tuesday at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park.

Daniell waited until after Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry discussed the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget request and after Becky Moore and Pat Sebring from the Stakeholders Committee gave their report on discussions with that group about parks and green space.

Gentry, Moore and Sebring reported that a subcommittee of the Stakeholders Committee is calling for more park space, for increased staffing for the Parks and Recreation Department, for a natatorium, and for funding for a master plan.

Before that discussion, Lisa Davol, Parks and Recreation deputy director, reminded the group of the Memorial Day program on May 29 at the Oconee County Veterans Memorial located at the front of Oconee Veterans Park.

The event, which begins at 5 p.m., includes antique equipment displays, various Veteran organizational information tents, and an ice cream vendor.

The guest speaker for the ceremony, which begins at 7 p.m., is Vietnam War Veteran Donna Rowe, who will discuss her experience as the 3rd Field Hospital Head Emergency Room triage nurse in Saigon.

Daniell’s Comments

This was the first meeting of the Recreational Affairs Committee Daniell has attended since he took over as chairman in January.

Daniell told those present that, if the county waited until it had the SPLOST funds in hand before authorizing completion of the multi-purpose fields, as is normal procedure, it would be another three to four years.

“Everybody is agreement to forward fund that project,” Daniell said, given the case Gentry had made of the need, “and that is not an easy task, because we are very young in that collection, and it’s going to take some real maneuvering to make that cash flow work.”

Daniell told the group that the current Fiscal Year budget includes $2.6 million for Parks and Recreation and $2.7 million for Public Works.

“They’re running neck and neck,” Daniell said. “So Parks and Rec is a high priority, financially as well as the facilities that you see.”

Daniell noted that “Every time the budget year comes around, I kind of look at that number. We’ve got roads that are really falling apart, probably some in your subdivisions, and before we surpass what we spend on roads with parks and rec, we’ve got to have a real good look at what’s happening.

“So that’s why there are a lot of questions back and forth and push back here and there,” Daniell said. “It’s a matter of being financially responsible.”

Horton Spoke Too

Commissioner Chuck Horton also attended the meeting and spoke in support of Daniell.

“If we had $40 million for roads,” Horton said. “We’d need $40 million again.”

At the meeting of the Board of Commissioners on May 11, Finance Director Wes Geddings presented the proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget, which will be before the BOC for consideration tomorrow night.

That budget recommends $2.86 million for Parks and Recreation and $2.85 million for Public Works.

The actual approved 2017 had included $2.67 million for Parks and Recreation and $2.81 million for Public Works, according to the figures Geddings released at that May 11 meeting.


The video below is of the complete meeting of the Recreational Affairs Committee.

Chairman Daniell started his comments at 1:02:05 in the video.

Commissioner Horton followed Daniell.

OCO: Recreational Affairs Committee 5 16 17 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Dark Horse said...

Here here John Daniel. If we in Oconee County are not super careful and ultra vigilant, we will become the next Gwinnett County and our way of life will be ruined forever.

Xardox said...

Parks & Recreation may be the most visible of any program the county has.
Maintenance of what is extant is already struggling with old equipment, money problems, and difficult morale.
It is a mistake to focus on anything new until the real problems are
addressed first.
It may be sexy to trumpet for all things "new."
But the real problems seem to be either unknown or ignored.

Anonymous said...

The objective is to make Oconee another Gwinnett. Then the ones who are responsible for causing it will just pack up and move. Then they start the whole process over again.

Anonymous said...

Daniell noted that “Every time the budget year comes around, I kind of look at that number. We’ve got roads that are really falling apart, probably some in your subdivisions, and before we surpass what we spend on roads with parks and rec, we’ve got to have a real good look at what’s happening.


Important Question for John Daniell: Which subdivisions in Oconee County truly have "roads that are really falling apart"? Seriously? Name them. Real examples.

The public should ask John Daniell what is the true cost of each county department?

In other words, how much money does Public Works generate and how much money does Parks and Recreation generate to offset expenditures?

Parks & Rec generates over forty percent of its budget back in revenue for the county, over a million per year.

I am sure county residents would like to see those numbers so we can actually see the true costs of running these departments. And Daniell should avoid

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the road ranking list produced by Public Works each year. See how many have failing scores. Constant whining from Gentry is getting old. He has not taken care of the fields. Full time staff is working banker's hours when most of the customers are there after 5pm. Time for some fresh leadership. Creativity and a thankful attitude will go a long way to solving all P&R "problems"

Anonymous said...

Is 8:56 pm a Public Works staffer??

Let's see the road ranking list...where is it on the Public Works website?? That should be a easily accessible public document...shouldn't it??

My kids participate in a number of P & R sports, camps & programs.

The fields are in good shape considering the amount of usage. Over 1000 Oconee kids playing soccer and the turf holds up. I work in turf & landscaping; there's no way to keep fields in any better shape with that much usage other than synthetic turf.

I see full-time staff out and about on weeknights consistently, whether football, basketball, soccer, 4th of July, etc. Don't ever see Public Works Management or staff after 5 pm other than Emil at a commission meeting.

The problem is King Melvin underfunded P & R for years, and now the bill is due. We need a new field complex just for the hundreds of Oconee County lacrosse playing children, let alone five more soccer fields, more youth and adult softball fields, a skate park, a pool, etc.

Funny 8:56 pm writes such a post on Memorial Day. John Gentry is a
Lieutenant Colonel in the National Guard and THREE TIMES has been called to serve overseas, including being stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, helping to train the police and army. With all due respect 8:56 pm, what have you done to serve your country?

Creativity? I'll take the solemn remnant of the World Trade Center in the VETERAN'S PARK Recreation Center and the beautiful veteran's monument at the entrance to VETERAN'S PARK as pretty creative.

I'll also take a thankful attitude towards Lieutenant Colonel/Director Gentry for his service.

Anonymous said...

P&R is not underfunded and never has been. Are you really suggeting challenging Gentry's whining and lack of creativity is a challenge to his part-time military job? Good soldier does not mean his does a great job at P&R.

Anonymous said...

Punlic works is out there in weathe events and all times of day and night. When ever the customer calls. When majority of customers show up for a service is when majority of full time staff should be available.

Anonymous said...


How does a county resident view the "road ranking list produced by Public Works each year"? Have never heard of it before, and am looking for it on the county website.

Wondering if the "road ranking list" is subjective or objective?
Many of the roads in the county are state maintained roads, with some city maintained roads in Watkinsville (and maybe Bishop/Bogart?). Wondering how many miles of county maintained roads there actually are.

The best city and county governments have a third party assess road conditions to avoid subjectivity/political funny business, or purchase their own Laser Road Surface Tester.

The City of Brookhaven, GA Pavement Management Analysis Report is excellent,
and something Oconee County Public Works could and should produce for county residents if not annually, then every third or fourth year:

Having good roads is one of the few instances of universal agreement in local government. If Public Works can produce a document like Brookhaven and others do, I'm confident it would receive much support from taxpayers.
And it would allow elected officials to plan long-term road spending instead of playing catch-up or being faced with immediate crises.

Anonymous said...

As a member of the comprehensive plan committee, please understand this is not a matter of public works vs. parks and recreation. We are trying to come up with a plan that covers all departments adequately. We are looking at where Oconee County is now and where we want to be in the next 10-20 years. Based on survey results, all issues need attention (infrastructure - sewer, water, roads; parks & rec - maintaining what we have now, adding more park land, etc.; land development - where/what is needed and lastly, and probably most important - how is all of this funded. We are early in the process. Please let your voices be heard but let's refrain from attacking. We need to all work together to make Oconee County great for ALL citizens who live here.