Forsyth County commissioners plan to hold public hearings over their authority, or lack of same, for planning use of the county’s parks facilities and ball fields.
Commissioners were surprised last week to discover they really don’t have a lot of say over how fields at the county’s parks are used. Under county ordinances, those determinations are made by the parks and recreation board and the director of parks and recreation, not the county commission.
At first blush it might seem odd that the overriding governmental agency in the county wouldn’t have some say-so in how county facilities are used. We can understand why the commissioners might have been surprised to learn that is the case.
Bringing the issue to light is a request by a "traveling" youth football team to lease space on one of the county’s fields. The team, which is an independent entity not affiliated with the county’s recreation programs, has been trying unsuccessfully to do so since 2007. When its president asked county commissioners for help, commissioners were advised by the county attorney that they really have no jurisdiction over use of county ball fields.
Now consideration is being given to revisions of county policies to put commissioners into the game.
It is understandable that county commissioners see a role for themselves in making such decisions – after all, they do have authority over how money is spent for the recreation department – but there is also need for caution.
The role of the commission is to make broad policy decisions in the governance of the county. It can’t allow itself to become bogged down in the minutia of day-to-day operations; if it does, future commission meetings may evolve into hours-long debates over which softball team is going to play where when.
The scheduling of events for parks is a difficult job, especially given the demand for recreation facilities in the county. For the most part, the current system seems to work well, though there have been complaints through the years that certain programs were denied access to fields.
There may well be a role for county commissioners to provide some avenue for appeal for those who would argue they haven’t been fairly treated by the existing system, but commissioners don’t need to become active in the routine and mundane operational details of every county department under their purview.
Any revision of the existing policy should make the division of responsibilities and the process for appeal clear to improve and streamline the government process, without burdening the top policy making board with routine operational decisions better left to others.