City hires consultant to conduct park survey

She will also seek funds for recreation agency

April 04, 2002|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

The city Board of Estimates approved yesterday hiring a consultant to survey residents to determine what they want from the Department of Recreation and Parks and to find funds for the agency from the private sector.

Parks Director Marvin F. Billups Jr. said the consultant, who will be paid $29,250, also will analyze past studies of the department and interview residents and organizations about the agency.

"What we are constantly finding is that there are many expectations that are all a little bit different," Billups said. "We find ourselves moving in different directions without a clear target."

He added that the consultant will help determine "how we can come to a consensus about where we are going."

The Baltimore-based consultant, Rebecca Murphy Jones, has a six-month contract. She is expected to start work within a week.

Billups said Jones will work on getting more funds for projects from the private sector and foundations. One possibility, he said, is selling naming rights to city playgrounds. The department has a $24 million budget, 374 full-time workers and 358 part-time employees, and is charged with maintaining 5,700 acres of city parks, 45 recreation centers and 24 pools, as well as developing programs.

Billups' administration has been criticized by Mayor Martin O'Malley and the chairman of the City Council's recreation subcommittee for being unresponsive and inefficient. Recreation centers wait months for repairs, parks are littered with trash, and Billups needs to infuse the department with leadership and vision, they say.

Billups maintains he is doing the best he can with an agency reeling from years of budget cuts.

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