Dublin Villager

Washington Township

Trustees eye options for managing parks facilities, programs

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Washington Township could soon get out of the parks and recreation business.

The township trustees last week discussed options for the future ownership and management of parks, per an efficiency study presented to the township late last year.

"It's a policy question out of the Novak study," Township Administrator Sara Ott said.

Because of changing demographics in the township and surrounding entities that provide park services, continuing a parks and recreation department may not be efficient, Ott said.

Washington Township currently maintains Homestead Park, Ted Kaltenbach Park, Amlin Crossing Park and its community center in Kaltenbach Park.

The parks are funded with inside millage the township assessed. In 2013 the parks budget was $573,000.

The parks and recreation department is staffed by three full-time employees, six seasonal staff and six part-time employees.

According to a study of the parks from Ott, facilities and recreation services are mainly utilized by Dublin and Hilliard residents.

"Ninety-seven percent of our population is in areas served by other municipalities," she said.

Attendees for Wacky Wednesday events in 2013, for example, were comprised of 65 percent Dublin residents and 20 percent Hilliard residents, information from the township said.

In 2013, only 15 percent of the Homestead Park rentals were from Washington Township residents.

Options for the parks and recreation department offered by Ott included keeping the current system, with the possibility of restructuring the rental fee to charge more for non-residents; partnering with other entities such as Dublin, Hilliard or the metro parks for management and ownership of the parks; and creating a parks district to manage the parks.

The township trustees were not in favor of creating a parks district for the parks, but did warm to the idea of partnering with other entities for management of the parks.

"From a good government point of view does it make sense to stay in the parks business or do we do what we do best (fire and EMS services)," Trustee Charles Kranstuber asked.

A few residents raised concerns to trustees about maintaining the current programs offered if another entity takes over management.

"As part of the negotiation we'd try to require them to keep it in place," Kranstuber said.

Some were skeptical though.

"It's unrealistic to think these programs will continue," Washington Township Parks Director Janelle Thomas said. "I don't want to give false information and false hope."

Facilities Coordinator Judy Hauser said the process has been "hush-hush" so far and residents should have been notified that trustees are having discussions on the future of the parks.

"I think there should have been a letter sent to residents," she said.

According to Kranstuber, Washington Township has been in discussions with Dublin over parks for several years.

"It would be premature to send a letter," Trustee Gene Bostic said. "We're not sure what direction we'll go."

Before trustees make a decision, they requested Ott to gather more information on partnerships with Dublin, Hilliard and the metroparks and the opportunity to maintain programs.

"All of us here are advocates of the parks system," Trustee Denise Franz King said. "The question is if the township continues to operate (it) or if someone else runs it."

No matter what happens, the parks will retain their current use, Kranstuber said.

"There isn't any scenario where Homestead Park doesn't stay a park," he said.

"It's just a matter of whose sign is out front."

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