Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough parks department wants to consolidate programs

TAMPA­­ — Like their counterparts in Tampa, Hillsborough County officials are contemplating a leaner, meaner parks department.

Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department officials want to reduce the number of centers offering staffed programs from 42 to 12. That would mean a longer drive for that arts and crafts class or exercise group.

But it might be easier to fill the classes and retain good instructors with less duplication, said department director Mark Thornton, who unveiled the plan to commissioners Thursday.

The commission took no action on the plan, which will be shared with the public in community gatherings before a decision is made this summer.

With property tax revenue reduced during the recession, parks departments everywhere have looked for places to cut. The changes involve neighborhood programs residents have long enjoyed for little money.

The Hillsborough department incurred a backlash in 2008 when it raised fees for after-school programs. Enrollment plummeted, largely because the school district cut transportation to the centers. Today fewer than 1,800 students use the program, from a high of 6,200 in 2006, according to Thornton's report.

The new plan would keep the smaller centers available for homeowner association meetings, garden club gatherings and other events that do not require county staffing.

County-led programs would take place at regional centers such as the University Area Community Center and the all People's Life Center in east Tampa.

Centers including those in Westchase and Brandon would expand. Others, in locations including Keystone and Progress Village, would be built new.

The estimated $30 million in construction, spread over six years, would come from $7.5 million in yearly savings from phasing out neighborhood programs.

About 170 part-time and full-time workers would lose their jobs, Thornton said. Some of the jobs would be lost in another component of the plan, which uses private contractors to maintain the sports fields.

Thornton's plan also calls for sports leagues to use the athletic fields more evenly. It enhances revenue-producing "eco-tourism" activities at nature parks.

Commissioners, while receptive, made it clear they will get an earful from constituents. Some have heard rumors that parks are closing. Thornton assured them they are not.

Commissioner Victor Crist wondered whether it might make sense for Hillsborough to join forces with the cities of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City to form a regional parks authority.

Commissioner Les Miller lamented the potential layoffs.

"We hate to see anyone lose their jobs," he said.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at sokol@sptimes.com.

Hillsborough parks department wants to consolidate programs 04/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 9:14am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mayor Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg mayoral election is about going forward, not back

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman christened his campaign office Friday evening by telling his supporters that the mayoral election was about moving forward, not backward.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman says mayoral election is about inclusiveness Friday at campaign office rally
  2. Forecast: Lots of sunshine, low humidity to start Memorial Day weekend

    Weather

    The start of your long Memorial Day weekend is all sunshine this Saturday, according to WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Rick Kearbey.

    WTSP seven-day forecast on May 27, 2017.
  3. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting

    Blogs

    UPDATE, 11:01: No Dickerson today as the Rays go with seven right-handers.

    Here is the lineup:

  4. Global computer outage grounds British flights

    Airlines

    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports Saturday as a global IT failure caused severe disruption for travelers on a busy holiday weekend.

    British Airways planes are parked at Heathrow Airport in January. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, file)
  5. Road rage incident leaves uninvolved man, 52, with critical injuries in Pinellas Park

    Accidents

    PINELLAS PARK — A 52-year-old man was critically injured after an apparent road rage incident that shut down the area of a U.S. 19 overpass for nearly six hours on Friday, police said.

    Pinellas Park police say a man has critical injuries after a truck involved in a road rage incident slammed into him after he cut off another vehicle. (Pinellas Park Police Department)