Two sources tell Lagniappe the city has put oversight of Parks and Recreation into the hands of the Mobile Police Department.
Councilman Fred Richardson initially brought up concerns over the unusual move during a pre-conference meeting of the City Council weeks ago. He said in a phone interview more recently the department is “loosely run” and former director Matthew Capps left for Montgomery.
“We ought to have a director of Parks and Recreation,” Richardson said. “They have no leader. Sending the police department over there is not leadership. Who will make the day-to-day calls?”
A source with knowledge of the department, who did not wish to be named, confirmed Richardson’s comments, saying they were told by a member of the MPD the department was “overseeing” the city’s community centers and parks, saying “everything that happens there impacts us.”
City spokeswoman Laura Byrne said MPD doesn’t have oversight in the parks department, but did have an “outreach” role at community centers. She also confirmed Capps had left for Montgomery, but said the city was in the process of interviewing for his replacement.
The source added that while the MPD was in charge of parks, the Bloomberg Innovation Team was handling programming for the city’s community centers. Byrne did not respond to questions about the I-Team.
In addition to the leadership questions, the source complained about changes to the city’s community activities program. For one, the source said, officials moved the various classes from public schools to the community centers. The source said this would negatively affect those residents who want to take the classes but don’t live near a community center.
“You’ve got some people who’ve gone to the programs at the schools for years,” the source said. “They did it without bringing everyone together. There’s so much being done without the council’s knowledge.”
Byrne confirmed the change, but would not go into specifics.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s administration has also made changes to the fee structure of the program, which the source said has been a detriment for instructors. Now instructors do all the paperwork and pay the city under what is called a “license agreement,” the source said.
“It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen,” the source said. “There is nothing to license.”
The source said instructors, as of last fall, pay the city $50 per class instead of splitting the fee paid by residents. The new system is a burden to instructors, according to the source, as many do not make enough teaching the class to recoup the fee. More recently, however, the city has limited the number of instructors, the source said.