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Decatur working to create new parks, recreation department

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Decatur working to create new parks, recreation department

Jordyn Copeland (l) and Elijah Marquez try out the bumper pool table kept from the Boys and Girls Club while their mother Olivia Marquez watches during the grand opening of the Oakhurst Recreation Center in the city of Decatur on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur is working to combine its Active Living and Children and Youth Services Departments into a new parks and recreation department.

The departments are working to create new position descriptions and hire a few positions. The new Parks and Recreation Department will launch on July 1.

There’s been discussion about merging the departments since 2021.

“This has been a lot of steps to come together like that because we’ve been apart for a number of years. Although at one time, it was all one department back in the day,” said Nancy Brune, assistant director of Children and Youth Services.

Greg White, Active Living director, noted the departments split in 2009.

Combining the departments has dovetailed with the parks and recreation master planning process.

“The timing is really impeccable that they started working on his even when the parks and rec plan was a glimmer of an idea,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said. “It puts us in a position to be prepared to carry out the goal of the plan.”

Arnold said she did not yet have an estimate on the financial impact of merging the departments, so she couldn’t say if it would cost more or less to combine them. The new structure adds 21 new employees, bringing the total number of full-time parks and recreation employees to 45. But the department will also offer more services, generating some revenue.

“I believe we’re getting some efficiencies and economies of scale by combining the two departments,” Arnold said.

White explained some of the reasons for the new department, which include growth and learning opportunities for employees, clarifying the lines of accountability and function, and improving the responsiveness, efficiency and effectiveness of the department.

“We want to respond in a proactive way to dramatic expansion of greenspaces. You can see in the master plan you’ve seen some great ideas coming forward. We think about how our facilities have grown, but at the same time staff changes have not grown,” White said.

The staff will also work to increase revenue generation and implement a cost-recovery goal.

Each division – Active Living and Children and Youth Services – has a director and assistant director. Under the proposed structure, White would transition to be the parks and recreation director, Miller would become the deputy director, and Brune would be the assistant director of operations. Sara Holmes is currently the Active Living assistant director, and she would become the assistant director of recreation under the proposed structure.

Afterschool programs and camps would be known as out-of-school time programs. An out-of-school time manager would oversee recreation supervisors, coordinators and specialists.

Various subdivision managers, like the out-of-school time manager, were added to the organizational structure.

“These managers will assist with the oversight of the subdivision and its processes, will coordinate across divisions, help eliminate silos, improve communications and quality of services as our demand continues to increase,” Holmes said. “The managers will be responsible [for], but not limited to, the professional development of the staff, the management of our registration software, the registration processes, performance management and the overall vision and direction of that subdivision.”

The athletics subdivision would have an athletics and aquatics manager, as well as recreation supervisors for athletics and aquatics. The subdivision staff would also include recreation coordinators and specialists, seasonal staff and swim team coaches.

The proposed new structure also changes the staffing model of the recreation centers.

“Right now we have what we view as four center operations – Decatur rec, Ebster rec, Oakhurst and Glenlake Tennis Center. In the proposed structure, Legacy gym will be included in this structure,” Holmes said.

A center operations manager would be responsible for all five centers and their staff.

“Our current program supervisor positions will transition to center or tennis supervisors,” Holmes said. “Each center will receive a full-time recreation coordinator or tennis pro, full-time administrative assistant and their part-time staff.”

Each center is located in one of the four quadrants of the city. To support the idea of a 10-minute neighborhood from the strategic plan, the department is proposing to have each center operate like the Decatur Recreation Center.

“Our current program supervisors have target audiences that they program for,” Holmes said. “Each center super would now program from infants up to seniors, and they would also manage the rentals at each center.”

In terms of department operations, there would be an assistant director of operations. They would oversee a project manager, and a parks and facilities operations manager. Other positions would include an events and special projects coordinator, an accreditation and risk management coordinator, crew leaders and recreation specialists.

Communications, marketing and customer service future structure would live under the deputy director. There would be a communications and marketing recreation supervisor, as well as a customer experience manager who would oversee administrative assistants and part-time front desk recreation specialists.

“The customer experience manager will be responsible for the development of our service model, the management of admin assistants and the part-time people,” Holmes said. “They will be charged with developing trainings and professional development for their staff, the management evaluation, the development of our financial and technological processes.”

Holmes said the interview process for the communications position is currently underway and that position will be filed this fiscal year. The communications supervisor will help create a new image and brand for the new department.

The transition will be phased over three years. For the fiscal year 2023-2024, the department proposed to hire the center operations manager, the three recreation coordinators, the out-of-school time manager, and the tennis pro.

“We selected these six to build out what we currently have and to support the staff and provide the adequate resources that they need,” Holmes said.

For FY 2024-2025, the customer experience manager, project manager, accreditation coordinator, athletics and aquatics manager, administrative assistants for the tennis center and Ebster Recreation Center would be added.

In FY 2025-2026 the following positions would be added: the aquatics supervisor, the events and special projects coordinator, crew leaders. A center supervisor, recreation coordinator and administrative assistant for Legacy Park would also be hired.

As for what’s next, the city commission will consider adopting the parks and recreation master plan. Throughout April to June, the city will market the new parks and recreation department to the community. Beginning in July, the department will start to implement its first official budget and the parks and recreation master plan.

Editor and Publisher Dan Whisenhunt contributed to this story. 

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