PALS should operate as efficiently as possible

info@islandpacket.comOctober 18, 2012 

Beaufort County's Parks and Leisure Services has been the poster child for dysfunctional departments for more years than we care to count.

So it is with a dose of skepticism that we look forward to the work of a pair of consultants hired by the county to assess programs and operations. The most comprehensive and insightful of reports mean little if their recommendations aren't properly executed.

Unfortunately, we've been promised improved performance before. Still, we'll cross our fingers and hope for the best outcome.

The first consultant, who toured county facilities and talked to people this week, is to propose improvements to sports, after-school and senior programs, county officials said. Ballard King & Associates of Highlands Ranch, Colo., is to consider solutions to field scheduling problems and study demographic patterns to predict future demand for sports programs. Its report is due Nov. 12.

Based on those recommendations, the second firm, Heller and Heller Consulting of Oak Park, Ill., is to consider whether staffing or structural changes are needed to carry out the plan.

The total cost for the two reports is $50,000, not a lot of money, especially if it offers ways to improve this important county department.

"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," county administrator Gary Kubic said. "That's not to say we are not doing a good job, but I think comparison and self-examination is a good thing."

Self-examination is one thing; performance is another. And surely, Kubic knows this department's performance history.

PALS has 32 full-time employees who oversee youth sports, aquatics and summer and after-school programs. The department has had repeated 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 problems.

This isn't a small operation. The department brought in about $714,000 in revenue in fiscal year 2012, most of it in fees from program participants, according to unaudited financial reports. Spending totaled $2.9 million.

Parks and Leisure Services is an important component in the overall well-being of our community, especially where our children are concerned. We should make sure it operates effectively and efficiently.

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