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Park & Rec: A two-person department?

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KENT—The Park & Recreation Commission is preparing to argue that it needs another full-time employee for its increasingly active department.

In two meetings this week, the commission members worked on a slide presentation to take to the Board of Selectmen when their department makes its budget presentation.

Chairman Rufus de Rham said he looked at Camp Kent attendance records from before Covid and for last year and found that participation increased by almost 20 children. “That’s a significant jump,” he said.

First Selectman Marty Lindenmayer has urged Park & Rec to consider contracting with Club Getaway to provide the summer camp. “I don’t like that idea,” said de Rham, adding that the locally run camp provides continuity for children participating in the after-school program. 

But the issue of a second Park & Rec employee goes beyond running the camp. de Rham noted that Park & Rec is the only town department that has only one employee with no back up. In the past, if the director went on vacation or was ill, responsibility for running the department fell to the chairman of the commission. 

“That is difficult,” he said. “[Selectman and Park & Rec liaison Lynn Worthington] and I are both doing hours and hours of work [while waiting for the new director to take over], and we are volunteers. What if the chairman has a job or is on vacation?”

He argued that the duties currently assigned to the Park & Rec director are more than one person can handle. Indeed, previous director Jared Kucenzki, who left at the end of the year, complained about the impossibility of the workload.

“It’s insane. Look at what we are asking a one-person department to do: office work, communications, collecting fees, setting up and breaking down for events, walking parks and fields, covering staffing shortages, meeting with providers, taking minutes … ,” said member Blythe Everett. “And you can’t ask the existing organization to take over so you can avoid hiring an extra person. Are these people just sitting around on their hands so they would have enough time to take this over?”

“For those people who complain the director is not in the office, this job is well over 40 hours,” said de Rham. “And we’re not getting what we need in terms of the director having time to pursue grants and getting stuff together for a Master Plan for Emery Park. It is set up to burn out whoever the director is.” 

A two-person department “would ensure a smooth-running department,” he said. “If something happened to the director, you would have one other person who knows what is going on and can keep the program running.”

The cost of the additional full-time employee would be reduced by needing fewer part-time employees and by an anticipated increase in attendance at programs. “We’re already paying the majority of the salary in part-time pay,” he said. 

Subcommittee member Kate Symonds said parents depend on the Park & Rec programs for their children. “We need to have a contingency plan and it can’t be for the chairman to take over.”

de Rham said Lindemayer questioned why Park & Rec is involved with senior luncheons, arguing that lunches are a function of Social Services. “I think we’re working with Social Services, not taking over,” de Rham said. “There are a lot of activities Park & Rec is interested in doing that will serve seniors. Our interest goes beyond hosting some of the lunches.”

The subcommittee agreed to continue to refine its numbers for its presentation to the Board of Selectmen.

Kathryn Boughton
Written By

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Bruce Adams

    February 15, 2024 at 7:08 pm

    Bury Emery Park. Put a reasonably sized pool at Kent Commons.

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