Consultants reviewing Beaufort County PALS programs, personnel

cconley@islandpacket.comOctober 12, 2012 

Gary Kubic

Beaufort County has hired two consulting firms to review its Parks and Leisure Services, which has been fraught with staffing problems and complaints from parents and coaches.

The first consultant, who toured county facilities and conducted numerous interviews this week, will propose improvements to sports, after-school and senior programs, according to county officials. Ballard King & Associates of Highlands Ranch, Colo., will consider solutions to field scheduling issues and study demographic patterns to predict future demand for sports programs, among other things. Its report is due Nov. 12.

Based on those recommendations, the second firm will consider whether staffing or structural changes are needed to carry out the plan. Heller and Heller Consulting of Oak Park, Ill., will handle that phase of the work, deputy county administrator Bryan Hill said.

The county spent less than $50,000 total for both consultants.

The goal, county administrator Gary Kubic said, is to improve a department that serves thousands of county residents each year.

"I would like to compare what we are doing with everyone else to see how we measure up and what we can do to improve ourselves," he said. "That's not to say we are not doing a good job, but I think comparison and self-examination is a good thing."

County Council vice chairman Paul Sommerville said the outside review was "a great idea" considering the department's size and scope.

"PALS is a sprawling program that reaches into every nook and cranny of the county. So many people are affected by it in so many ways," he said. "Anything we can do streamline the program and offer more efficiencies and serve people better, I am 100 percent for it."

The department has 32 full-time employees who oversee youth sports, aquatics and summer recreation programs. Thousands of kids participate in the sports leagues each year, and hundreds of students attend reduced-price after-school programs.

The organization has faced controversy over the years, including high turnover in leadership posts and allegations three years ago of employee theft. Parents and coaches have complained about poor communication with PALS staff, double-booked fields and other issues.

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