|North Adams Considering Consolidation of Recreation Boards|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff|
01:11AM / Wednesday, September 19, 2018
|Windsor Lake and its adjacent campground have been under a separate commission since 1990 but had been overseen by Parks and Recreation prior to that.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — City officials are mulling the idea of consolidating oversight of all its recreation areas under one commission.
The Parks and Recreation Commission oversees all the sports facilities and public parks in the city but not Windsor Lake or Historic Valley Campground, which have their own commission. It also doesn't have much to do with the Armory or the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink.
"It was discussed with the past administration about having a board to oversee the rink but I think my thing was instead of having multiple boards to oversee ... seems like from the Armory to the skating rink to Windsor Lake to the rest all fall under this committee," Administrative Officer Michael Canales told the Parks and Recreation Commission on Monday.
Canales, who cautioned that the discussions are very preliminary, said expanding Parks & Rec with members dedicated to the lake and rink activities made sense.
"You guys meet every month like clockwork, I know the Windsor Lake Commission hasn't met since March and the rink doesn't have anybody," he said.
The skating rink is currently being run by Canales through the mayor's office, creating difficulties in trying to coordinate and communicate with all the different groups. A commission would allow more public discussion and transparency on the operations.
"Sometimes I think it would be good in a public setting to talk about what we're doing and where we'd like to go," Canales said. "Instead of me just making a call, it would allow some vetting of how we do things."
Consolidating the commissions would require an ordinance change. The Windsor Lake Recreation Commission was established in 1990 as an advisory board to set policies and recommend actions and seasonal rates to the mayor's office. Prior to that, Parks & Rec had overseen what was commonly called Fish Pond and was involved in the purchase of land to expand the area and build the campground in the early 1970s.
The city had added the skating rink to its recreation portfolio in 2005 after Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts declined to continue operating the state-owned facility. Since then, the city's had issues with the rink's management until it was put directly under City Hall's oversight nearly two years ago. The Armory was acquired around the same time and has been the subject of numerous phases of restoration.
Setting up another board for the rink or Armory plus the two existing commissions would push the number of board members to up to 20, Canales said, making it harder to get people to serve and to answer to so many boards. Parks & Rec, on the other hand, could be expanded from seven to nine and cover all the recreation areas. It could also provide consistency on policies and procedures.
"We have all of these committees and boards that have always run independently in their own silos if you will. We're trying to get everybody consistent on policies," said City Councilor Rebbecca Cohen, who was attending the meeting and is heavily involved with hockey at the rink.
"Everybody knows that the rink at times worked very independently and looking in the past at what has happened at the rink," she continued, "I would just like to see more transparency, more accountability down there so we can get that rink more stable and working so we don't have to worry about it."
Chairman Richard Wood said if the commission was going to take on more responsibility it should be for all the recreation areas.
"If we're going to do it let's not piecemeal it, let's do all of it," he said.
Commissioners Robert Leclair and George Canales agreed. "I think it would be great to have one group take care of everything," Canales said.
Commissioner Timothy Koperek suggested discussing the rink with the mayor and inviting someone from the Windsor Lake commission to attend the next Park & Rec meeting.
In other business:
• Commissioners pressed the administrative officer on fixing the walking path at the River Grove Park on Houghton Street. The fencing for the dog park had been placed in the corner of the field but also over the paved path, forcing walkers out into the sometimes wet grass. Canales said the options were to move the dog park into the middle of the field or reroute a new path around it. He assured the commission, "we'll have a plan in the spring."
• Work is expected to begin staging at Noel Field this week for the new splash pad and park improvements. The bid was given to J.H. Maximillian. The facade repairs at the Armory are expected to begin next week.