Lodi of­fi­cials in talks with BOBS about its fu­ture

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Oula Miq­bel NEWS-SEN­TINEL STAFF WRITER

Lodi Parks, Recre­ation and Cul­tural Ser­vices Di­rec­tor Jeff Hood told city lead­ers that his de­part­ment is still hav­ing dis­cus­sions with the Boost­ers of Boys and Girls Sports about their fu­ture part­ner­ship dur­ing Tues­day’s city coun­cil shirt­sleeve ses­sion at Carnegie Fo­rum.

Hood and Deputy Di­rec­tor Cathi DeG­root re­cently met with BOBS of­fi­cials dur­ing their monthly board meet­ing to dis­cuss the fi­nan­cial chal­lenges and lim­ited staffing the de­part­ment is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

The de­part­ment is ex­pected to es­tab­lish three new parks — Rose Gate, Villa Fiore, Or­chard Lane Park — and main­tain a walk­ing trail in Reynolds Ranch within the com­ing year.

“As we face the chal­lenge of stag­nant fund­ing and more parks to main­tain we are look­ing to al­lo­cate re­sources from the recre­ation side to the main­te­nance side,” Hood said.

Hood said dis­cus­sions be­tween the groups have been pos­i­tive.

Ac­cord­ing to Hood, he has been trans­par­ent about the bud­getary con­straints fac­ing the de­part­ment and noted that the BOBS have shoul­dered more re­spon­si­bil­ity in re­cent years, in­clud­ing lin­ing the ball fields.

“It’s not a mat­ter of not want­ing to, I don’t have the bod­ies, the peo­ple do not ex­ist any­more. We don’t have the part-time la­bor, which we rely on for field main­te­nance,” Hood said.

Lodi res­i­dent Alex Alif­eris sug­gested the city look into pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships — agree­ments be­tween gov­ern­ment agen­cies and pri­vate-sec­tor com­pa­nies that can be used to fi­nance and op­er­ate projects, in­clud­ing park main­te­nance, to save money pro­vide the man­power needed to main­tain parks.

“There are a lot of land­scape com­pa­nies in town, and we have plenty of man­power in the city that you could hire land­scap­ers to main­tain the parks,” Alif­eris said.

While the BOBS con­tinue to work with the city on main­te­nance is­sues, Hood said parks and rec staff is still be­ing over­whelmed by ad­min­is­tra­tive work.

The de­part­ment cur­rently does the fin­ger­print­ing for vol­un­teer coaches, they in­put sport reg­is­tra­tions and other ad­min­is­tra­tive work.

Coun­cil­man Bob John­son ques­tioned the ad­min­is­tra­tive costs, and in­quired if the city could find ways to lessen the fi­nan­cial and time-con­sum­ing tasks that have en­cum­bered staff.

“The city pays to fin­ger­print the vol­un­teer coaches ev­ery two years, but the school dis­trict fin­ger­prints teach­ers once. Why are we pay­ing to fin­ger­print coaches we have al­ready fin­ger­printed?” John­son asked.

Hood said the city has erred on the side of cau­tion and fol­lowed rec­om­men­da­tion to fin­ger­print vol­un­teers ev­ery two years.

“I reached out to As­sem­bly­man (Jim) Cooper’s of­fice and asked if there was any pos­si­ble way Cooper can get the law changed to re­duce the fees for fin­ger­print­ing with vol­un­teer youth coaches. They said they would look at it, but I haven’t heard any­thing yet,” John­son said.

Hood re­sponded to John­son’s in­quiry re­gard­ing the cost to fin­ger­print coaches, clar­i­fy­ing that time was also a con­cern.

“We fin­ger­print over 200 peo­ple ev­ery year. That is a lot of time for each per­son on staff. It takes a cou­ple of weeks to get through the doc­u­men­ta­tion,” Hood said.

Kurt An­der­son, a BOBS board mem­ber, ad­dressed the coun­cil and said the group is com­mit­ted to do­ing what­ever they can to main­tain their pro­grams and their re­la­tion­ship with the city.

“We have talked in­ter­nally about tak­ing on ad­di­tional ad­min­is­tra­tive roles. We are not only able, but ready to take those chal­lenges on,” An­der­son said. “I am hop­ing we can start ne­go­ti­a­tions quickly and work out the de­tails. BOBS isn’t go­ing away any­time soon, I can prom­ise you that.”

John­son re­minded the coun­cil and city staff of the 60-years re­la­tion­ship with the BOBS, and the im­por­tant role they have in the com­mu­nity.

“When I was here 40 years ago they fin­ished build­ing Salas Park. They have con­trib­uted might­ily to park cap­i­tal projects, which has al­le­vi­ated the bur­den on the parks bud­get,” John­son said.

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