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Myers Park

In the wake of the announcement that Steve Colt would be retiring and that the Town Board is considering reorganizing to create a Department of Public Works (DPW) some residents have asked town officials about the fate of the Recreation Department.  Supervisor Ed LaVigne has said that responsibility for the parks would likely move under a DPW umbrella, which some residents took to mean that the Rec Department would be a victim of the reorganization.  But LaVigne says that the Rec Department will remain intact.

"The Rec Department is not going anywhere," he said at the last Town Board meeting.  "If I could turn rumors into electricity we would never have these discussions, because human nature is that if you don't know the answer, let's fill it in with the worst case scenario.  So here is what the deal is: that Rec Department will ge going full steam ahead - that's not going to change."

Earlier this month LaVigne outlines a plan that will put Recreation Supervisor Patrick Tyrrell in charge of Parks & Rec, at least until January.  LaVigne said that there would be no reduction in programs, and expressed confidence that Tyrrell has been well trained during his 14 years of working with Colt.  He also applauded Tyrrell for working on an upcoming online Rec program registration system that town officials say will reduce the work load in the Rec Department by automating that part of it.

During the remainder of this year LaVigne said Colt's retirement affords an opportunity to re-evaluate the department to see if a reorganization makes sense in terms of improving services and creating more efficiencies.

LaVigne said that cross-department cooperation in the Town has been excellent.  Tyrrell is among non-Highway Department employees who have obtained a Class B Driver's License so that they can help plow snow when the need arises.  Every Highway Department employee has worked on Parks & Rec projects over the past several years.

"In a lot of municipalities the walls come up... this is my turf... that's not my job... the union says this... we can't do that...," LaVigne said. "We are service-oriented and we do a very good job."

While it may make sense to relocate the Parks Department under a DPW, the Rec Department would likely remain as an independent department.  LaVigne says the Rec Department isn't going anywhere, and the board members Doug Dake, Andra Benson and Joseph Wetmore agreed that it will be business as usual for the department, with no reduction of service after Steve Colt leaves July 31.  

"Not on my watch," said Councilman Doug Dake. "We won't lose the recreation part of it."

Because the issue arose very quickly after Colt was made aware of an early retirement package, not all details have been worked out.  Wetmore has advocated for adjusting Tyrrell's compensation commensurate with the new responsibilities he will be shouldering.  But LaVigne said that they would have to meet together to quantify those responsibilities before attaching a price tag to them.

LaVigne also said that potential new Recreation Director candidates would be asked to lay out a vision that would use Colt's legacy as a foundation to build the department's future on.

"My question is for the next person going in there, what's your version for the next 15 or 20 years?" he asked. "What's your vision to enhance this?  I don't want to have someone come in and just 'plug and play' what Steve's done.  I want to see what the next vision is, also."

DPWs typically include engineering, planning, and maintenance, especially water, sewer, and road maintenance.  They often include maintenance of all municipal assets, including parks.  The Village of Lansing has a small DPW that is responsible for all of these things.  At least the last four Town of Lansing supervisors and their boards have considered a DPW that would be headed by an engineer or planner and that could encompass the Highway and Parks departments.  The formation of Sewer District #1 earlier this month has prompted town officials to consider a DPW again.

But town officials are adamant that they are not going to torpedo an immensely successful Recreation Department even if a DPW is created that has the responsibility to maintain the town parks.  LaVigne said that the formation of a DPW is a long term goal, but the short term goal is to maintain the Parks and Recreation Department as-is under Tyrrell's leadership.

"The Rec Department is not going anywhere," LaVigne said. "We're going to try to preserve all these things.  The Rec Department is not going anywhere."

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