County may outsource park needs [The Frederick News-Post, Md.]
(Frederick News-Post (MD) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 22--A new group of people might wield the tree trimmers and paint brushes at Frederick County parks in the near future.
After a lull in last year's discussions of outsourcing government services, county officials are now thinking of contracting out certain tasks at Rose Hill Manor Park with an eye toward expanding the pilot program if it is successful.
"It's part of a larger picture, but you have to start somewhere," said Paul Dial, the county's director of parks and recreation.
The current exploration of contracting out parks services signals a renewal in last year's talks of privatization, said Frederick County Manager Dave Dunn.
The sitting commissioners have made it a top priority to look at downsizing government, becoming more efficient and saving dollars through outsourcing. Last year's push in this direction led the county into the market for certain information technology and inspections functions. However, the privatization efforts paused near the end of last year with an improved budgetary outlook and, later on, a departmental restructuring. Now, officials are ready to get back to work, Dunn said.
Along with considering the parks division, officials also are taking a look at outsourcing county technical support and public works services, he said.
The proposal to kick off the parks pilot program is now under review by county committees focused on outsourcing, and the groups' recommendations will then go to commissioners for a final decision.
Dial said his division could use the outside help; manpower for weeding and watering has decreased as the parks maintenance staff has shrunk from 34 to 27 full time employees over the past three years. At the same time, the workload is increasing, with a number of new facilities slated to open this year, according to a county staff report.
"To meet the needs of the park system, we recommend initiating a pilot program to expand our contracting efforts within the entire park system," the report states.
Dial said Rose Hill Manor, a historic property on North Market Street, was a good starting place. A manor house, carriage museum, blacksmith shop and several other buildings sit on the 43-acre property, a place ideal for exploring different outsourcing partnerships, said Dial. Currently, five full-time employees maintain the park and other facilities in the county.
In the staff report, Dial indicated that he'd be interested in outsourcing chimney inspection, carpet cleaning, tree trimming, exterior painting, garage door repair and alarm systems maintenance. Dial said he's also looking at privatizing some custodial functions that came under his supervision in February after commissioners disbanded the management services division.
Dial said he also wants to continue building a relationship with the U.S. National Park Service, which already helps with historic property repairs and offers training for park staff.
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