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RCS receives control over city Parks, Rec

When the Russellville City Schools Facebook page posted a press release Monday afternoon about moving the management of Russellville Parks and Recreation to Russellville City Schools, the citizens of Russellville packed the city hall auditorium in concern.

The Russellville Board of Education and Russellville City Council both had special called meetings Monday night to approve this partnership.

According to the approved agreement, the partnership will begin Aug. 6 and continue for five years. The city will allocate $775,000 annually to Russellville City Schools to operate the Parks and Recreation Department. RCS will keep any excess money to make up for a decrease in funding for the education budget.

In the 2013 school year, Russellville City Schools received more than $1.2 million toward the education budget, but over the years this funding has decreased to $1 million.

Both Russellville City Schools and the Parks and Recreation Department are funded by the city.

The city will maintain ownership of Parks and Recreation properties, but the school will run operations, such as maintaining the grass and striping the fields.

“The Parks and Recreation Department is a vital part of our city, and because of that, we want to see it flourish and be a great resource for our citizens,” said Russellville Mayor David Grissom in the press release. “We have done our research to see how we could improve our current Parks and Rec Department and make it more efficient and effective. With what the school system can offer us, we fully believe allowing the school system to manage the day-to-day operations will be the best way to have our Parks and Rec operating at its fullest potential.”

Russellville City Schools will be in charge of managing funds for the Parks and Recreation Department and will keep any money left over to help make up for a decrease in funding.

The school will hire additional employees to help run the Parks and Recreation Department, and Russellville City Schools Superintendent Heath Grimes said the current Parks and Recreation Department employees will have a chance to apply to fill these positions.

Anyone the school board hires to maintain Parks and Recreation will be a Russellville City Schools employee.

The Parks and Recreation Department currently has 45 employees, seven of whom are full-time and 38 who are part time.  All current employees will be laid off, effective Aug. 6, except for the superintendent of the Parks and Recreation Department.

The Parks and Recreation Department will maintain the way it is operated, and Russellville city clerk and treasurer Belinda Miller said the only thing that will change is who is managing the department.

The city will continue to pay the taxes and utility bills for the properties. RCS will keep any revenue generated from fees or concessions, according to the resolution.

Grimes said one thing he believes will improve Parks and Recreation is having the school coaches involved.

“I fully believe our coaches can get these kids excited, increase participation and make the Parks and Recreation Department even better,” Grimes said.

Grimes dedicated part of the meeting to explaining the reason for the change to the public, but many citizens were unhappy they did not get a chance to voice their opinions on the merger before the board passed the resolution.

The Board of Education will hold its regular meeting Thursday at 8 a.m. to further discuss Parks and Recreation operations, among any additional agenda items.