Citizens make a push to help with parks and recreation programs

Monticello residents are mobilizing to improve city parks and recreation programs by asking for a new part-time position to aid a department they see as stretched thin.

At the May 25 meeting of the Monticello City Council, nearly a dozen members of the community – most of whom volunteer on the city’s own Parks and Beautification Committee or the newly-formed Recreation Committee – shared their displeasure with the state of parks and recreation in the city.

Ultimately, recreation committee member Kate Goble requested the city look into hiring an assistant for the parks and rec department.

“I’m asking you guys to find some money in the budget to hire that [position]. I think that could solve some of the issues and relieve stress on [City Parks and Recreation Director] Shayne Christiansen.”

The request for the part-time position came after residents shared their concerns with the council about the appearance and functionality of city parks and recreation at the meeting.

Complaints about overgrown grass and weeds, locked and unusable restrooms at Loyds Lake and city parks, and a dilapidated fence at Pioneer Park were among the comments from members of the beautification committee.

The committee reports they are working on the Main Street flower project, lawn awards, banners on Main Street, and are planning a mural on the baseball dugouts. The committee also hosted a cleanup event at Veterans Memorial Park earlier in May.

However, Parks and Beautification Committee Chair Carol Van Steeter explained she’s worried that without changes, the committee may lose members.

“They feel their efforts won’t be seen or won’t make a difference because things haven’t been taken care of,” said Van Steeter. “They feel the city doesn’t care and people are complaining to them, so that’s a really big concern for me.

“It worries me that it stops the inertia of the beautification committee.”

On the recreation side, community members shared concerns about communication regarding programs, confusing software for online signups, and the inability to receive refunds for programs cancelled.

Members of the Recreation Committee say the result has included some parents placing their youth in Blanding rec programs.

Community member ReNee McDonald expressed that the issue relates to not having enough people.

“We’re expecting one man to do four and five different jobs, so I wanted that on the record. We realized it’s not a pile on, it’s an overall frustration of not having enough people to come in and help.”

Council member Bayley Hedglin recalled the city has previously had an assistant recreation director in the past.

“Then all of a sudden there wasn’t one and then the money was gone, which was odd to me,” she added. “I know things get shuffled around, but there’s always been one.”

City Manager Evan Bolt shared that the city budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year starting July 1 has been conservative due to a 15-percent decrease in sales tax collected related to COVID-19.

However, Bolt says hiring a part-time position is possible with the money the city saved by dissolving the city police department last summer and contracting with the San Juan County Sheriff’s office. 

The city dissolved the department last summer citing increasing costs and the challenge of recruiting, training, and retaining officers. Bolt estimates the city will save $100,000 to $200,000 a year by contracting services with the county. 

Discussing the possible part-time position, council members and the public outlined some priorities. 

The part-time position would likely be a year-round administrative position with flexible hours. The person would help with communication, organization, and possibly even grant writing for the parks and rec department.

“This is the most comment we’ve gotten from the public in four years,” said Mayor Tim Young.  “I think it’s important. If we can get some help that’s great – ideally somebody who’s a bit tech savvy or can help with those communication issues.”

Also at the meeting, resident Clayson Lyman approached the council about making sure American flags are lit at city locations like the city offices, fire station, and visitor center.

Community member Winn Wescott also approached the council to discuss the Big 4 Tractor on Main Street and the need to install an ADA-compliant concrete ramp into the building housing the machine.

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