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Policy on parks revisited
Issue began with say on field use
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Forsyth County News

It appears Forsyth County parks and recreation staff will retain responsibility for approving who uses public ball fields.
County commissioners, however, may still consider changes to parks policies and how they are set.

Tuesday, the commission discussed the substance of possible ordinance changes proposed earlier in the month.

The commission considered making some policy revisions rather than etching the process for facility or field rentals into law.

County Attorney Ken Jarrard suggested the commission proceed with the two public hearings on the ordinance, but strip the parts it doesn’t want before voting. The first hearing will be held Thursday.

The proposed changes reviewed Tuesday would have put approval of athletic fields in the hands of “the county manager or his/her designee” and set forth new factors for consideration.

Commissioner Jim Boff said formalizing the county manager as the ultimate decision-maker in the ordinance seemed contrary to the rules set forth for other departments.

“Nothing jumps out in my mind … that there’s something that explicitly says these decisions will be made by [department director] unless the county manager says no,” Boff said.

Commissioner Patrick Bell, who initially appeared receptive to the changes, agreed with Boff that the process didn’t need to be addressed in the ordinance.

“I think we take out anything that outlines who makes what decisions and let the policy guide that,” Bell said.

The commission first discussed modifying the ordinance after a presentation about a travel football team.

The group had sought to use Forsyth County fields, a request that had been denied per parks policy and stated lack of space.

While looking into the matter, commissioners discovered that they could not override decisions the parks board had made on field or facility use policy. At that point, they considered changing the ordinance to give themselves policy oversight.

Tuesday, Jarrard presented an overview of how field space is currently approved.

An organization will make a request. Then, athletic division staff will make a recommendation based on guidelines, which ultimately goes to the parks and recreation director, who issues the permit.

Jarrard said the staff first reviews six criteria that are “fairly specific” and must be followed for an organized sports team to gain access to a field.

The additional guidelines direct parks staff to determine if there’s an “acceptable facility” and that the agreement is beneficial to the county, which Jarrard said gives staff “a little bit of wiggle room.”

Commissioner Todd Levent expressed concern about leaving that amount of discretion to staff.

The parks and recreation board makes recommendations on policies the staff presents and which the five-member panel has expected commissioners to ratify.

When the board was created in 1995, Jarrard said, its stated purpose was to “assist, advise and make recommendations to the board of commissioners.”

That language may still be captured in potential changes to the ordinance.

Another proposed change states that “any other guidelines, criteria or consideration adopted by any board regarding use of the athletic fields of county parks and recreation facilities must be ratified by the board of commissioners to become effective.”

The commission also intends to retroactively ratify policies set forth by the parks board that have never received higher approval.