A facilitated public forum is being held tonight to get feedback on the future of parks and recreation programming in Manhattan.
Workforce challenges have hampered the department in recent months, causing uncertainty for the future of some programming. Manhattan City Manager Ron Fehr says city officials hope to get to a solution to one burning question.
“How can we deliver these programs in a quality level that people want to participate in and can afford to participate in going forward, with the challenges that we have with the workforce and other issues today,” he said during an appearance Friday on KMAN’s Morning News.
Last month the city had announced the possibility of programs being modified or suspended, dependent on revenues heading into the fall and winter. Parks & Recreation Advisory Board Chair Ed Klimek says there has been some shifting of parks and recreation into a more privatized model, something he says even some staff and possibly community members aren’t comfortable with.
“That’s another discussion we need to have with the community. Is this community ready to have cost recovery and to pay a lot more and where does that leave the youngster that wants to be in a recreation program that doesn’t want to play competitive ball?”
Other challenges that have come to light in recent months have been how the department can sustain adequate staffing levels for the new recreation centers, which have only been open for a little more than a year. Fehr says looking back, the city should have sought better ways to keep the facilities sustainable.
“It’s one of those challenges that we have about should we have asked instead of a quarter cent sales tax for facilities, another tenth for operations, or do we come back? That’s part of the future of how we fund some of this stuff going forward as we try to bring more things on line,” he said.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. inside the Manhattan Fire Department headquarters at 2000 Denison Ave. The public is encouraged to attend.
Fehr and Klimek were our guests during the 8 a.m. hour Friday on News Radio KMAN. The full interview is below.