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Rye Town Officials Address Community Concern Over Parks

The public raised some questions and got some answers from Rye Town Board officials.

During the monthly Rye Town Board meeting on Jan. 15, council members announced their support for the new parks plan and emphasized that they will reevaluate any problems if conditions do not improve.

“I know there was some public concern and I wanted to reassure the public that we are members of the community, as well as members of the council,” Councilwoman Christina Collins said. “We all want the same thing and that is to improve parks and buildings for the betterment of community…I am confident we are going to get there and all be happy with final result. If we are not well make sure we find a way to make it right. Trail and error will get your further than being complacent.”

Collins’ statement came at the end of the Rye Town Board meeting, which followed a two-hour long Rye Town Parks Commission meeting, where concerned residents questioned the Commission on its plans for the future of the park. During that meeting officials emphasized that some problems that local resident Deidre Curran highlighted in a recent YouTube video happened before the town fired its parks staff and implied the former employees did not sufficiently perform their duties, according to an article by Claire Racine in the Westmore News. Also during the Parks meeting, Commission members expressed concern that the parks employees jobs were terminated without a Commission discussion on the matter. Read more about that meeting in the Westmore News here.

During the regular Town Board meeting that followed the lively parks meeting, Confidential Secretary to the Supervisor, Bishop Nowotnik, gave a brief summary of how the parks will work, which was covered here on Patch on Jan. 10.

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Nowotnik gave additional detail on Crawford Park operations.

 The park caretaker who lives on Crawford Park still patrols the park every day and sends a report of any issues to Nowotnik, who will then have Greenway Property Services, the outside contractor hired to take over some of the former full-time town employees’ work, handle the situation, or contract the work to an appropriate specialist. About nine months ago, the Town hired about four independent event coordinators to handle individual events at Crawford, Nowotnik said.

“We tied our labor cost directly to whatever revenue we generate (from the events),” Nowtonik said. “That has been working well.”

During closing comments at the meeting, Councilman William Villanova and Supervisor Joe Carvin reiterated Collins’ points.

“Our level of dedication remains the same,” Villanova said of the town’s commitment to the parks. “We are not complacent.”

Supervisor Carvin emphasized that the personnel decisions were difficult but that it was necessary in order to try to balance the budget. The cost of employee benefits has risen by about $300,000 while non-tax revenues have dropped forty percent. The Town still had to take about $350,000 out of its reserve fund for the 2013 budget, even after eliminating seven town jobs, Carvin said. Carvin and the Town board maintained that they believed in their new plan and are open and willing to reevaluate the situation if things do not work out as they hope.

“We are not perfect, but we are working as hard as we can to accommodate all the needs of the community.”

Carvin also thanked Nowotnik for taking over as facilities manager “with a gusto.”

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